Biden plans day-one immigration moves to reverse 'inhumane' Trump policies
Executive orders will end travel ban and expand census as new president seeks path to citizenship for undocumented migrants
Last modified on Wed 20 Jan 2021 05.02 EST
Joe Biden on his first day in office will deliver a package of immigration actions that will immediately reverse elements of Donald Trump’s “deeply inhumane” policies, incoming administration officials said.
The actions planned for Wednesday represent a stark change in tone from the previous four years of anti-immigrant rhetoric and actions, and will roll back Trump administration measures that targeted undocumented immigrants.
Biden administration officials briefed reporters on Tuesday on the incoming president’s day one immigration plans. They include executive orders to reverse Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented people from the census, end the travel ban, roll back a Trump-era policy on deportation priorities and end an emergency declaration Trump used to divert funds to the wall on the US-Mexico border.
Biden will also unveil legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, calls for increased technology at the border and attempts to address the root causes of immigration.
He will also issue a presidential memo to underline the administration’s support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program, which allows people who were brought to the US as children without legal documents to temporarily get work visas and be protected from deportation. Trump ended Daca in 2017, but the decision was embroiled in legal challenges and eventually rejected by the supreme court.
In another memo, Biden will extend a program that protected roughly 4,000 Liberians in the US who hold a protected immigration status known as Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
Other actions planned for Wednesday include reversing some of Trump’s first actions as president, which in 2017 set the stage for four years of anti-immigration policies.
An interior enforcement executive order will reverse an order Trump signed five days after he took office that dramatically expanded interior immigration law enforcement by no longer prioritizing the deportation of criminals. The Trump order effectively made any of the 10.5 million undocumented people in the US a deportation priority – including families, longtime residents and Dreamers – those protected by Daca.
Biden will also end the travel ban, which Trump announced in his first week in office, by executive order. The order will also instruct the state department to restart visa processing for the affected countries and to develop a proposal to remedy harms caused by the bans, including those who had visas denied. It also allows for increased screening and vetting of travelers through information sharing with foreign governments.
The incoming administration emphasized it plans to address the root causes of migration, including by sending aid to the Central American countries where the climate crisis, violence, corruption and poverty have driven an increase in family immigration.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s incoming national security adviser, said: “The Biden administration is going to have a very different approach to regional migration than what we’ve seen over the last four years, with a special emphasis rooted in years of the president-elect’s commitment to addressing the root causes of migration in the region.”
Separately, the officials said, Biden will send an immigration bill to Congress on Wednesday, after taking office.
The US Citizenship Act of 2021 would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status, and give them the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass background checks and pay their taxes. Dreamers, temporary protected status (TPS) holders and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements would be eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. Both groups could apply for citizenship three years later.
To deter people from coming to the border, applicants must be physically present in the US on or before 1 January 2021. The legislation would, however, allow the homeland security secretary to waive the presence requirement for those deported since Trump took office and had been in the US three years prior.
The act would also change immigration laws to use the word “noncitizen” instead of “alien”, increase the number of diversity visas from 55,000 to 80,000 and eliminate the three- and 10-year bans that prevent people from re-entering the US if they have left the country after being there illegally, among other actions.
To pass the legislation, Biden would probably have to persuade 60 senators, including at least 10 Republicans, to support the bill.
Susan Rice, who will lead the White House Domestic Policy Council, said: “President Biden’s legislation will modernize our immigration system and prioritize keeping families together, growing our economy responsibly and effectively managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the US remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution.”
The Biden administration also plans to build back up US asylum and refugee programs, but cautioned it could take months to address Trump administration changes to the systems.
Biden administration officials said future immigration executive actions would include plans to address the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), better known as Remain in Mexico, which require asylum seekers to await their court hearings in Mexican border towns and not in the US, as before. They would also address the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bar on asylum seekers and refugees under an order called Title 42.”