Biden initiates wide-ranging immigration changes on Day 1 of presidency

20 Jan 21

UNITED STATES

President Joe Biden assumed the presidency today and is expected to take numerous actions affecting immigration policy his first day in office. Biden will sign a series of executive actions to undo several Trump-era orders and will send a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress.

Key executive actions:

  • Freeze on midnight regulations. Biden will issue a memo putting a freeze on any new Trump regulations that have not taken effect and allowing the new administration to review regulations in the works. The memo directs all agencies to confer with the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget before moving forward with any regulations.
  • Repeal the Muslim ban. Biden will sign an executive order repealing two Trump presidential orders that ban entry from a number of Muslim-majority and African countries. The first proclamation, known as the Muslim Ban, bars nationals from Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, and was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. The second proclamation suspended immigrant and diversity visas for nationals of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Nigeria and suspended diversity visas for nationals of Sudan and Tanzania. Biden’s order will direct the State Department to restart visa processing for the affected countries, including for applicants stuck in the waiver process.
  • Restore DACA. Biden will sign a presidential memo directing the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The memo also calls on Congress to enact legislation providing broader relief by giving those who came to the U.S. as undocumented children a permanent status and path to citizenship.

Key provisions of Biden’s immigration bill:

  • Modernize employment-based visas. The bill proposes several changes to employment-based visas and green cards, including provisions that would eliminate per-country green card caps and clear visa backlogs, make it easier for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to remain in the U.S., provide H-1B dependents with work authorization, and allow caps on green card to be adjusted according to labor demands.
  • Path to citizenship for undocumented individuals. The bill would create a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals and immediate eligibility for green cards for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements.
  • Diversity Visas. The bill would prohibit religious discrimination in travel bans, limit presidential authority to issue future bans, and proposes to increase the number of green cards under the Diversity Visa program from 55,000 to 80,000 per year.
  • Improve employment verification process. The bill would require the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor to establish a commission to improve the employment verification process. It would also include provisions to prevent labor abuses and increase penalties for employers who violate labor laws.

BAL Analysis: President Biden has set out an ambitious immigration agenda on Day 1, and has indicated he will take additional actions in the coming weeks. BAL is closely monitoring the administration’s actions on executive orders, regulatory changes and broader legislative reforms and will continue to provide timely updates as information becomes available.

This alert has been provided by the BAL U.S. Practice group. For additional information, please contact berryapplemanleiden@balglobal.com.

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