U.S. Immigration: What To Expect From Joe Biden’s Immigration Plan

By Louanni Cesario and Juliana Dias

On January 20, 2021, the United States will welcome its 46th president, Joseph (“Joe”) Biden, and with that, a new proposed immigration policy. During his campaign, Biden proclaimed that “Immigration is essential to who we are as a nation, our core values, and our aspirations for our future (…)”, as well as has unveiled an ambitious plan to improve the U.S. immigration system.

In his recent statements, Biden has pledged to use the executive powers to reverse many of Trump’s most controversial actions. Biden’s plan includes a 100-day moratorium on deportations, restoring protections for young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children and eliminating some of Trump’s restrictions and travel bans. Additionally, Biden is largely expected to go back to the priorities that were in place at the end of the Obama administration.

It is important to note that some of these changes can be implemented within the first 100 days of the Biden Presidency, however others must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed into law by the President. Biden’s proposed plan requires more than just the Executive Branch and a lot of this policy is going to take quite some time and require a lot of effort from all of the federal government’s various agencies. Below, we highlight and comment on 8 key parts of what we can expect from Biden’s Immigration Plan.

1. Employment-Based Immigration

Biden recognizes that temporary work visas are good for the United States, but that they have been abused in some cases, particularly with regard to the H-1B program. His plan states that he “will work with Congress to reform the current system of temporary work visas to allow workers in these select industries to switch jobs, while certifying the labor market’s need for foreign workers. This flexibility, coupled with strong safeguards that require employers to pay a fair calculation of the prevailing wage and ensure the right of all workers to join a union and exercise their labor rights, will help meet the needs of domestic employers, sustain higher wages for American workers and foreign workers alike.”

He supports “expanding the number of high-skilled visas and eliminating the limits on employment-based visas by country.”. In addition, he pledges to “work with Congress to increase the number of visas awarded for permanent, employment-based immigration—and promote mechanisms to temporarily reduce the number of visas during times of high U.S. unemployment.”

Furthermore, Biden proposes to “exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programs in STEM fields in the U.S. who are poised to make some of the most important contributions to the world economy. Biden believes that foreign graduates of a U.S. doctoral program should be given a green card with their degree and that losing these highly trained workers to foreign economies is a disservice to our own economic competitiveness.”

Finally, the Biden Immigration Plan would create “a new visa category to allow cities and counties to petition for higher levels of immigrants to support their growth.” This program would “allow any county or municipal executive of a large or midsize county or city to petition for additional immigrant visas to support the region’s economic development strategy, provided employers in those regions certify there are available jobs, and that there are no workers to fill them. Holders of these visas would be required to work and reside in the city or county that petitioned for them and would be subject to the same certification protections as other employment-based immigrants.”

2. Family-Based Immigration

Biden has stated that he will support family-based immigration, preserving family unification as a foundation of the U.S. immigration system by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed, and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate.

3. Trump’s Pandemic Restrictions

Trump implemented a series of sweeping restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic that kept some legal immigrants and travelers from entering the United States. The measures include travel bans that block the entry of many people coming from Brazil, China, Europe and Iran in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Trump also barred entry of certain immigrants seeking permanent residence and temporary foreign workers, including certain skilled workers with H-1B visas, stating the need to protect American jobs. While Biden has criticized some of these restrictions, he has not said if he would immediately reverse them. A Biden campaign official stated that would look to public health officials for guidance on pandemic-related border closures.

4. The Public Charge Rule

The incoming Biden administration also pledges to end the Public Charge Rule that took effect on February 24, 2020. The rule denies green cards and visas to applicants based on their likelihood of receiving government benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. The Public Charge Rule has also been the subject of extensive litigation in U.S. courts, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. DACA and TPS

The Biden Immigration Plan would reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and “ensure Dreamers are eligible for federal student aid.” It states that “Dreamers and their parents should have a roadmap to citizenship through legislative immigration reform.”. The plan would “order an immediate review of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in their countries ripped apart by violence or disaster.”.

Finally, the plan states that “Biden will immediately begin working with Congress to modernize our system, with a priority on keeping families together by providing a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants; growing our economy and expanding economic opportunity across the country by improving and increasing opportunities for legal immigration; and preserve the longstanding directive of our immigration system to reunite families and enhance our diversity.”.

6. Refugees and Asylum Seekers

The Biden Immigration Plan would restore protections to persons applying for asylum in the U.S. It would rescind the Remain in Mexico policy and insure that asylum seekers have the same rights that they had prior to the Trump Administration. Biden has also said he will prioritize the reunification of any migrant children separated from their families under Trump administration policies and that the refugee quota would be increased from 15,000 to 125,000 annually.

7. Naturalization Process

A Biden Administration proposes to streamline and improve the naturalization process to make it more accessible to qualified green card holders. Biden intends to remove roadblocks to naturalization and obtaining the right to vote, address the application backlog by prioritizing the adjudication workstream and ensuring applications are processed quickly, and rejecting the imposition of unreasonable fees. 

8. The Muslim Travel Ban

Biden has pledged to immediately end on Day One of his presidency the Muslim Travel Ban, which currently imposes immigration restrictions on 13 Muslim-majority countries. Since the ban was the result of a Presidential Proclamation, not a law passed by Congress, Biden could end the ban immediately upon taking office. The Biden Immigration Plan states that “prohibiting Muslims from entering the country is morally wrong, and there is no intelligence or evidence that suggests it makes our nation more secure.”

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