The Biden administration has promised to reverse the anti-immigrant policies of the Trump administration. Although Biden has taken some actions and made numerous proposals, including an immigration reform bill, it is too early to tell if, and exactly when, these actions and proposals promise to positively impact immigrants on a larger scale.
Will It Be Difficult to Reverse the Changes Trump Made?
Yes. In just 4 years, the Trump administration made a mind-blowing 1064 changes to immigration rules and laws. Immigration lawyers faced a new attack against their clients nearly every day. Mondays and Fridays were notorious for being days that brought the worst news. Many of the changes were made in ways that are not subject to any scrutiny or accountability, such as guidance memos, bulletins, and circulars. The sheer number and way these changes were made means that it will take a long time to revoke, reverse, or modify them.
What Has the Biden Administration Done So Far to Help Immigrants?
The Biden administration has taken these positive actions:
- BREAKING NEWS – PUBLIC CHARGE IS GONE! This is indeed excellent news to see the end to this overarching rule that set out to broadly limit immigration.
- Ended the discriminatory travel ban (or the “Muslim Ban”). The State Department will now restart visa processing for affected countries. The State Department is also in the process of proposing remedies for harms caused by the bans.
- Reinstated the 2008 naturalization civics test.
- Stopped adding more asylum seekers to the Migration Protection Protocol (MPP) program, which ordered 65,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their U.S. court hearings.
- Suspended the Asylum Cooperative Agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, which forced asylum seekers to first apply for asylum in those countries before seeking asylum in the United States.
- Ended construction of the border wall.
- Placed a 100-day freeze on certain deportations. Though the freeze was blocked by a federal judge a week after taking effect.
What Does the Biden Administration Want to Do in the Near Future?
There are still many areas which are being reviewed, although the Biden administration has issued statements on which direction it wants to take in the near future. These areas include:
- Reducing long waiting times and difficulties associated with naturalization applications.
- Reducing the long waiting times that currently exist because of limiting quotas for victims of crime, U visa applicants.
- Eliminating barriers to asylum seekers, such as the “one-year bar” and ensuring that U.S. asylum law is consistent with international human rights standards.
- Ending Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forced asylum seekers to wait in dangerous conditions outside the U.S. for their hearing.
- Protecting and strengthening DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). DACA renewal applications and Advance Parole are still being accepted. DACA recipients who only received DACA and a work permit for one year will be receiving one-year extensions.
What Else Stands in the Way of Systematic Changes that Positively Impact Immigrants?
Much like Democrats and pro-immigrant organizations filed lawsuits against Trump’s orders, Biden’s orders will face lawsuits by Republican-controlled states and organizations. A federal judge appointed by Trump has already indefinitely blocked Biden’s 100-day freeze on deportation after the State of Texas filed a lawsuit.
For many years, both during Democratic and Republican administrations, immigration has been framed as a national security issue. Though not as extreme as Trump, Biden will likely continue insisting on border security, deportability, detention, and long vetting procedures. In fact, in late February, the current administration reopened a detention center for migrant children. We strongly urge the current administration to end the criminalization and detention of immigrants.
The officers who make decisions on immigration status have a lot of leeway when deciding cases. Even if the rules and laws change, immigration judges and officers may still remain conservative and restrictive in their interpretation and make inappropriate judgments not based in the law or appropriate to the facts at hand.
Finally, Biden’s proposed immigration reform bill has the Congressional majority needed to become law. However, it seems as if he wants a bipartisan bill. As the bill stands, it does not have enough Republican support. If he chooses to negotiate with the Republicans, the risk is that the bill will become watered-down at the least, or even contain compromises that are harmful.
Want to Read More?
To learn more about the ongoing actions, challenges, and difficulties around immigration rules and laws, we recommend the following:
- USCIS Ends Public Charge
- USCIS Reverts to the 2008 Version of the Naturalization Civics Test
- Breaking Announcement by Department of Homeland Security Announcing Intent to End Public Charge
- The Race to Dismantle Trump’s Immigration Policies — A discussion of how difficult it will be to reverse or change all the changes made under Trump.
- Immigration Policy Tracking Project — This tracker shows all the immigration-related actions taken by the Trump administration, as well as actions taken by the Biden administration to revoke or change Trump-era rules and polices.
- Democrats Introduce Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill — An overview of Biden’s immigration reform bill and the political challenges it faces.