Under the new Biden administration, immigration in the United States will be overhauled to reverse many of the unpopular policies implemented by Donald Trump, and also expanded upon to create new pathways for citizenship and refugee admission. In contrast to the Obama administration, which was criticized by the Latino community for not focusing on immigration when Democrats controlled the House, the Senate, and the Whitehouse, Biden plans to make immigration a key legislative issue.
Since the beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump restricted legal and illegal immigration to the U.S. Just days before his exit from the Whitehouse, Trump issued an H1-B Merit-based immigration system that gave priority to higher wage immigrants.
But on January 20, his first day in office, President Biden wasted no time dismantling many of Trump’s immigration prerogatives through the use of executive orders, actions, and memorandums.
Biden has made good as on his promises to Dreamers by directing Homeland Security to “preserve and fortify” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In other moves that show a policy 180 from Trump, the Biden administration has restricted Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) ability to deport people for 100 days, paused the border wall construction, discontinued Trump’s practice of sending asylum seekers to Mexico for the duration of their asylum hearings, ended the travel ban on several majority Muslim and African countries, and ensured there would be no citizenship questions on the census.
The new president also has plans for a much larger immigration overhaul, for which he hopes to rely on the legislative process.
New Immigration Legislation
On January 20, Biden revealed the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a proposed piece of legislation that would completely overhaul the U.S immigration system. Since the bill has not yet been passed into law, it is impossible to know with certainty if this is the future of immigration. However, the bill does set the agenda for what the Biden administration hopes to achieve.
There are three main components to the bill: create a path to citizenship, boost investments at the U.S.-Mexico border, and tackle the root causes of immigration from Central America.
If this legislation were to pass, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants would have a chance to earn citizenship so long as they pass a criminal and national security background check and pay taxes. The bill could put a tremendous dent in the immigration court backlog, which now stands at 1.3 million cases.
Under the law, undocumented people living in the country before January 1, 2021, would be eligible to apply for temporary legal status, and then green cards five years later. Certain subgroups like farmworkers and those with Temporary Protected Status would be eligible for permanent residence immediately.
The bill would boost spending on technology and infrastructure at the border, streamlining ports where over a million people cross a day while also improving security where most illicit drugs are smuggled into the country. The bill would also invest $4 billion to combat the violent problems that force migrants to flee South America.