What is Happening in Immigration Law under the Biden Administration

On his first day in office, on January 20, 2021, President Joe Biden, signed various executive orders and issued several directives related to immigration law in the United States. In addition, President Biden proposed to Congress an immigration bill, that if passed, would allow an estimated 11 million of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. gain citizenship in 8 years.

Below are basic information about the orders and directives that were signed on January 20.

DACA Protection: President Biden signed a memorandum directing Homeland Security secretary to keep the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, created by Obama, running, allowing young undocumented immigrants to apply for permanent legal status.

Priorities for Removal: President’s order revokes an executive order signed by former President Trump in January 2017, which expanded the list of immigrants being considered priorities for removal. President Biden’s order focuses on enforcing immigration laws against those that pose a serious threat to the country.

100-Day Deportation Suspension: President Biden signed a memorandum stopping immigration authorities from deporting most noncitizens for 100 days. Terrorists, suspects of terrorism, spies, those convicted of aggravated felonies and those that arrived after November 1, 2020, can still be deported. The 100-day halt will give a chance to those who may qualify for legal status, if the new bill passes Congress.

Halt on Border Wall Construction: President Biden also ordered a pause on the ongoing construction projects at the border wall. The stop was issued in order to review the legality and process of awarding contracts for the construction, as well as the funds available and already distributed for the construction.

Remain in Mexico Protocols: New guidance issued by President Biden suspended the necessity of sending new asylum seekers back to Mexico, while they awaited their asylum proceedings.

Travel Restrictions Due to COVID-19: The non-essential travel restrictions at the U.S. and Mexico border issued in March by former President Trump will stay in place, allowing travel between the countries only for essentials reasons, such as commerce, education or medical.

Ending Travel Ban: An executive order signed by President Biden revoked former President Trump’s ban on travel from various Muslim and African countries. Embassies and consulates were directed to process visa application and send in status reports in 45 days. In addition, procedure and information-sharing procedures will be reviewed within 120 days.

No Deportation for Liberians: A memorandum signed extends the Deferred Enforcement Departure for another 18 months, to about 10,000 Liberians in the U.S., without legal status, after fleeing their country due to civil war. The extension may allow some to obtain legal status, if the new bill passes Congress.

U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021: The bill introduced to Congress is called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. If passed, it would provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants, living in the U.S. prior to January 1, 2021, provided that they can pass a criminal and national security background checks and paid taxes. Those individuals would be eligible to apply for a temporary legal status, and then apply for a green card five years later, and for citizenship three years after receiving green card. Certain groups, such as Deferred Action recipients, farmworkers and those with Temporary Protected Status, would be eligible for immediate permanent residency and citizenship three years later.

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