After only a few days in office, President Biden has already issued various immigration-related executive orders, starting on inauguration day.
End of Muslim Travel Ban
Among the first of Biden’s executive orders was an end to the Muslim Travel ban, which could reunite tens of thousands of families who are separated across international borders. The 2017 Muslim Travel Ban of the previous Administration banned individuals from the following Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the U.S.: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In 2020, the Trump Administration expanded the travel ban on Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, and Tanzania, although it only affected certain visas for residents in these countries. Biden’s Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States emphasizes that beyond contravening with American values of tolerance, pluralism, and coexistence, these travel bans undermined the U.S.’s national security, having jeopardized the U.S.’s network of alliances.
DACA and Biden’s Immigration Reform
The Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 addresses the causes of migration, reformulates its border management, and most centrally, proposes a new path to citizenship. A central piece of Biden’s immigration reform bill is to offer 11 million undocumented immigrants an eight-year path to citizenship. This bill would give qualifying immigrants temporary legal status and offer them the chance to apply for green cards after five years if they meet certain requirements. After three more years, they become eligible to apply for citizenship.
If they meet certain requirements, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) holders, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and immigrant farmworkers would be immediately eligible for a green card. All applicants must have been in the U.S. on January 1st, 2021 to qualify under the proposed bill, however.
Another central piece of Biden’s bill addresses the root causes of migration. The bill funds a $4 billion interagency plan constituting aid for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras in order to bolster these countries’ efforts to reduce corruption, violence, and poverty.
Final aspects of Biden’s immigration bill include an increase of U-visa cap to 30,000. Additionally, Biden proposes to change all references of “aliens” to “non-citizens.
Biden also revoked Trump’s 2018 declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border, in which he diverted billions of dollars to barrier construction. This proclamation allows for an immediate pause in border wall construction. As you may remember, Trump ultimately only built a small fraction of the promised 452 miles, most of which replaced already-established fencing, and was never funded by Mexico.
Instead, turning away from the border wall, Biden’s immigration reform bill focuses on enhanced technology to bolster security at the U.S. southern border. While officials did not release any specifics on the timeline or budget for increased technology and infrastructure at the southern border.
President Biden also issued a 100-day pause on most deportations in order to first establish a “review of policies and practices” of current immigration enforcement. This pause will also aim to allow the DHS to focus its resources where they are most needed.
Small Note on DHS
President Biden has selected Alejandro Mayorkas to be the secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, as the agency’s first Latino candidate. Mayorkas said stated he won’t abolish ICE, despite calls from immigrant rights activists, and that he would review pandemic-era restrictions on immigration at the border, according to Reuters. Supporters of his appreciate his “moral compass,” demonstrated by his opposition to separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Obama Administration.
More immigration-related executive actions will likely occur in the coming week. While these immigration changes have been swift, the former president took more than 400 immigration-related executive actions, all of which didn’t have Congress’ input, that will take time to reverse.