Brighter Days Ahead: The Top 5 Immigration Changes Since 46 Became President

By Brianne Donovan, Sumner Immigration Law Clerk

If you read our blog post, What to Expect When You’re Expecting (a New President), then you’re familiar with President Biden’s proposed immigration strategy. While the proposals seemed promising, the old maxim of actions speaking louder than words is especially pertinent when considering political statements. However, President Biden’s first few days in office have spoken surprisingly loudly in favor of immigration.

Below are the top 5 immigration changes that the new U.S. president has already made.

  1. Rescinding the “Muslim Ban”

At the beginning of 2017, the previous administration shocked the nation with a shocking executive order that banned citizens of 7 countries from entering the U.S. The executive order became known as the “Muslim Travel Ban” due to its effect on primarily Muslim-majority countries. The original countries on the list were:

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

The order also suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and banned Syrian refugees indefinitely.

After challenges from multiple federal courts, the travel ban was found unconstitutional. The Trump administration issued a revised ban through a new executive order. The following executive order removed Iraq from the list of countries and exempted foreign nationals with already approved visas and green cards. This subsequent executive order also faced numerous lawsuits, which resulted in Trump enacting a third executive order. This final executive order, Order 13780, was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision.

The orders have caused irrevocable harm, psychological trauma, and family separation. On January 20, 2021, President Biden revoked the order. However, the lasting effects of the travel ban, pandemic travel restrictions, and visa restrictions, will likely delay immigration and family reunification. President Biden has instructed his administration to determine effective means of moving forward and mitigating harm from the ban.

  1. Buy American, Hire American Memo is Revoked!

In April 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Buy American, Hire American.” The “Hire American” section of the order directed the Secretaries of State, Labor, and Homeland Security, as well as the Attorney General, to propose new rules and issue new guidance to protect US workers as related to our immigration system. A key focus on the order was mandating a review of the H-1B program, including asking key leadership to recommend change that would help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries.

President Biden’s take on immigration seems to be more welcoming and inclusive and suggests that US immigration is a not a zero-sum game. That is, President Biden’s approach seems to be one of protecting the interests of US workers, a valid concern of course, while also creating a US immigration system that enhances the job market and US economy for everyone, including both US workers and foreign nationals. In that vein, on Friday, January 29th, President Biden revoked the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order. We are hopeful that this will have a positive impact on the legal immigration landscape, including but not limited to H-1B petition adjudications. More specifically, we are optimistic that on-going or future litigation regarding a number of proposed and current regulatory changes will no longer be supported by Trump’s BAHA executive order.

  1. Immediate Halt of Border Wall Construction

“Build that wall” started as a campaign slogan for the previous administration, but it has since morphed into a multi-billion dollar project. Congress has allocated over $15 billion dollars to construct a physical wall on the United States and Mexican border.

President Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office, immediately halting the construction of the wall. The Biden administration will need to move forward cautiously in handling this project due to the funds tied up in contracts for construction signed by the previous administration.

  1. DACA Proclamation

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, or DACA, is an Obama-era policy that provides children who immigrated to the United States without documentation a pathway to legal work authorization and protection from deportation. Over 800,000 people nationwide, known as Dreamers, are protected from deportation through DACA.

The previous administration attempted to rescind the program, but the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional.

On his first day in office, President Biden signed an executive order demanding that the Department of Homeland Security “take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.”

  1. Undocumented Immigrants WILL Be Counted in the Census

The U.S. census determines the number of representatives each U.S. state has in Congress. Additionally, the data is used to allocate federal funds to communities. Traditionally, the census has included residents of each state, including immigrants without documentation otherwise. This is to ensure equal representation. The previous administration announced a policy that would not count undocumented immigrants in the census.

The Biden administration issued an executive order ensuring that undocumented citizens will be counted in the 2020 Census.

As we continue to learn more about developing policies, we will be sure to update you. Check our blog for periodic updates.

For legal questions and help navigating the immigration process with confidence, please contact us today. We are immigration lawyers in Richmond, VA but we serve clients throughout the U.S. and around the world. You can call us at 804-396-3412 or send us an email to info@sumnerimmigration.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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