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How can the Presidents newest immigration reform policies help undocumented immigrants?

Since taking the Oval Office in January 2021, President Joe Biden's administration has taken steps to remove Trump-era limits on immigration to the United States.

Planned measures include:

  • Increasing refugee admissions.
  • Keeping deportation protection for unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children in the United States.
  • Not enforcing the "public charge" rule, which rejects green cards to immigrants who may use public programs such as Medicaid.

 

The travel restrictions were implemented for Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen. These are among the countries whose visa processing was halted in January 2017, and it was one of Trump's most infamous immigration policies. The State Department has been ordered to start visa processing again for those affected countries.

 

Biden also has relaxed limitations during the coronavirus crisis that substantially decreased the number of immigration permits awarded. The number of green card recipients fell from around 240,000 in the 2nd quarter of the 2020 fiscal year (January to March) to approximately 79,000 in the third quarter (April to June). In comparison, about 266,000 people acquired a green card in the third quarter of fiscal 2019.

 

In December 2021, Biden maintained a Trump-era policy that forces migrants who arrive at the US-Mexico borderline and ask for asylum to stay in Mexico until their claims are processed. Biden had previously terminated the Migration Protection Protocols, or "Remain in Mexico" policy, before resuming it after the United States Supreme Court upheld a case filed by Texas and Missouri challenging the program's termination. Until their claim is validated, asylum applicants do not get legal recognition that enables them to settle and serve in the United States.

 

Biden's most effective immigration plan would grant more access to new immigrants into the United States while also providing a road to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the country. The bill would give the nation's estimated 10.5 million undocumented immigrants an eight-year road to citizenship, improve current family-based immigration policies, reform employment-based visa restrictions, and increase the capacity of diversity visas.

 

The Senate is contemplating various immigration proposals in the Build Back Better Act, a budget package passed by the House in November 2021. While the bill's passing remains unclear, as is the bill's final version's inclusion of immigration reforms, the proposal would make roughly 7 million undocumented immigrants qualified to file for deportation relief, work permits, and driver's licenses.

 

More than 35 million legitimate immigrants live in the United States, the majority of whom are American citizens. Many people survive and are employed in the country after receiving a lawful residence permit, while others are granted temporary visas for students and laborers. In addition, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs provide around 1 million unlawful immigrants temporary authorization to live and work in the United States.

 

As per cmsny.org, President Biden has issued the following immigration-related Executive Orders (EOs) and administrative policy changes since his first day in office:

 

●      Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States – January 20, 2021

●      Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities – January 20, 2021

●      Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – January 20, 2021

●      Proclamation on the Termination Of Emergency With Respect To The Southern Border Of The United States And Redirection Of Funds Diverted To Border Wall Construction – January 20, 2021

●      Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census – January 20, 2021

●      Memorandum Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians – January 20, 2021

●      US Citizenship Act of 2021

●      DHS Statement on the Suspension of New Enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols Program – January 20, 2021

●      Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease – January 25, 2021

●      Executive Order on Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, to Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border – February 2, 2021

●      Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New American – February 2, 2021

●      Executive Order on the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families – February 2, 2021

●      Executive Order on Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration – February 4, 2021

●      Memorandum for the Secretary of State on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 – April 16, 2021

●      A Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Nonimmigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease 2019 – April 30, 2021

●      Memorandum for the Secretary of State on the Emergency Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2021 – May 3, 2021

A few of the initiatives in the Biden plan, such as putting DACA receivers and "Dreamers" on a road to citizenship, shaping the country's visa structure, and relieving pandemic-related restrictions on travel, have gotten support from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the US Chamber of Commerce, and other business groups.

Here are some crucial points about current immigration programs in the United States, as well as Biden's suggested amendments that aided undocumented immigrants:

Employment-based green cards

The US government now issued over 139,000 employment-based green cards to immigrant employees and their families in 2019. The proposed legislation from the Biden administration might increase the total number of employment-based green cards that are currently capped at around 140,000 per year. The idea would allow for the use of surplus visa slots from past years and the receipt of green cards for wives and kids of employment-based visa workers who are not counted against the yearly cap. These measures may aid in the clearing of the massive applicant queue. The proposed law would also repeal the per-country cap, which forbids any nation from receiving more than 7% of all green cards issued every year.

After being granted green cards, immigrants can apply to become U.S. citizens. As a green card holder, a person cannot vote. But using the green card they can take out credits such as credit cards, payday loans, etc. But before taking on too much unsecured debt burden, it is suggested that they must consult exports, such as a consumer attorney, CPA, or payday loan attorneys.

Maria Praeli, government relations manager at the immigrant advocacy group FWD.us, added in a press meet - “For all of them, the broken immigration system stands in their way of being recognized for who they already are: important members of our communities.”

Refugee admissions

In 2021, the United States welcomed only 11,411 refugees, the lowest number since Congress approved the Refugee Act in 1980 for those escaping oppression in their native countries. Even after the Biden administration increased the highest number of refugees the government could accept to 62,500 in fiscal 2021, the low number of admissions continued. For 2022, which begins on Oct. 1, 2021, Biden has upped the refugee ceiling to 125,000.

The persistent pandemic is partly to blame for the small figure of acceptances in recent years. After suspending immigration during the coronavirus pandemic, the United States only welcomed roughly 12,000 refugees in fiscal 2020. This was down from approximately 54,000 refugees accepted in fiscal 2017 and significantly less than the 85,000 refugees allowed in fiscal 2016, the Obama administration's final full fiscal year.

The recent drop in refugee admissions reflects Trump administration policy decisions made before the outbreak. In fiscal 2020, Trump set a quota of 18,000 enrollment, the lowest number since Congress established the modern refugee program in 1980.

President Biden stated - “The United States Refugee Admissions Program embodies America’s commitment to protect the most vulnerable, and to stand as a beacon of liberty and refuge to the world. It’s a statement about who we are, and who we want to be. So we are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission.

Family-based immigration

Through household sponsorship, roughly 710,000 persons were granted a legal residence permit in the United States in the fiscal year 2019. If you already have a wife, kid, siblings, or parent residing in the nation with U.S. nationality or a green card, you can apply for a green card through this program. Because a single country can only contribute 7% of all green cards awarded annually, immigrants with huge applications often have to wait years for a green card.

Biden's proposal would increase per-country caps and remove application backlogs, among other things, to increase accessibility to family-based green cards. Family-based immigration, sometimes known as "chain migration," is now the most popular way for people to obtain green cards, making up around two-thirds of the more than one million people who earn green cards each year.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

As of Dec. 31, 2020, over 636,000 undocumented immigrants received temporary work permits and were SECURED from being deported under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. One of Biden's first movements as president was to order the government administration to protect the program, which Trump had wanted to repeal before the Supreme Court ruled that it could continue. Under Biden's immigration measure, DACA beneficiaries, sometimes known as "Dreamers," would be one of the undocumented immigrants who would have a road to citizenship. Senators have offered separate legislation to accomplish the same goal.

President Biden added - “I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency. It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”

H-1B visas

H-1B visas were issued to around 188,000 high-skilled foreign workers in 2019. H-1B visas made up 22% of all employment-related temporary visas issued in 2019. The H-2A visa for farmworkers, representing nearly a quarter (24%) of temporary visas, came in second. From fiscal years 2007 to 2019, over 2 million H-1B visas were issued.

The Biden administration is anticipated to look into policies that resulted in higher H-1B visa refusal rates under the Trump regime. Furthermore, Biden has postponed the implementation of a Trump-enacted rule that attempted to prioritize the H-1B visa process of selecting based on earnings, which would have increased H-1B applicants' overall wages. Biden also advocated legislation to provide H-1B visa holders' spouses with full-time employment permits. The Trump administration had attempted to limit these permits. In addition, the Trump administration established an internet registration system, which resulted in a record number of applications for the fiscal year 2021.

Diversity visas

The United States' diversity visa program, often known as the visa lottery, grants green cards to around 50,000 applicants each year. More than 1 million individuals have acquired green cards through the system since it began in 1995, intending to diversify the U.S. immigrant community by providing visas to underrepresented countries. Citizens of the nations with the most recent legal immigrant arrivals, such as Mexico, Canada, China, and India, are ineligible to apply.

The Biden administration has recommended legislation to boost the overall number of diversity visas available each year to 80,000. On the other hand, Trump had vowed to scrap the program.

Temporary Protected Status

Over 700,000 immigrants from 12 nations are projected to be qualified for relief from deportation under Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. This government program allows some immigrants from specific countries to work and live in the United States for a limited time.

The program supports persons who have evacuated designated countries due to war, hurricanes, earthquakes, or other unusual circumstances that make a living there risky. The overall number of immigrants is estimated based on those who are currently registered and those who are projected to be qualified from Myanmar (also known as Burma) and Venezuela.

Immigrants from Venezuela and Myanmar are now eligible for TPS due to adjustments made by the Department of Homeland Security, which controls the program, after Biden entered office in January 2021.

TPS benefits must be renewed regularly, or they will lapse. Benefits for eligible immigrants from nine countries have been extended until 2022 and beyond: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. In addition, in light of the recent unrest in Haiti, the Biden administration broadened eligibility for Haitian immigrants.

Biden and Democratic lawmakers in Congress have advocated providing citizenship to specific TPS recipients. TPS recipients who satisfy particular criteria might apply for green cards right away under Biden's comprehensive immigration measure, allowing them to become permanent legal residents. TPS holders who meet specific criteria would be able to apply for citizenship three years after earning a green card, two years sooner than the standard time frame for green card holders. On the other hand, the Trump administration attempted to eliminate TPS for practically all beneficiaries but was thwarted by a series of challenges.

Conclusion

 

The presidential memo is part of Biden's more significant push to modernize the United States' immigration system, which includes offering a path to citizen status for 11 million undocumented immigrants and extending legal status to youngsters who entered the country unlawfully. As president, Biden will complete the work of constructing a fair and equitable immigration system, restoring and expanding on the progress Trump has brutally undone.

 

Author’s Bio: Lyle Solomon has extensive legal experience as well as in-depth knowledge and experience in consumer finance and writing. He has been a member of the California State Bar since 2003. He graduated from the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, California, in 1998, and currently works for the Oak View Law Group in California as a principle attorney.