HOW HAS PRESIDENT BIDEN CHANGED IMMIGRATION?
On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued several orders on immigration. Some orders take immediate effect while others may take more time to be implemented. If you think these policies affect you, contact a lawyer or legal service provider.
Among the changes are:
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) remains in place.
- Deportations* were paused for 100 days (starting January 22), with some exceptions, and new enforcement policies will be adopted.
- Travel bans** barring entry for nationals of certain Muslim-majority and African nations were revoked.
- Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) protection was extended for Liberian nationals until June 30, 2022.
- Enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols that keep asylum seekers waiting in Mexico were suspended — but it is unclear how cases will be handled at the border.
* On Jan. 26, a district court temporarily prevented the government from implementing the 100-day pause.
** The travel bans applied to nationals from Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Nigeria, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen.
NOTE: This situation remains fluid and policies can shift rapidly.
WILL CONGRESS PASS AN IMMIGRATION BILL?
President Biden has proposed a sweeping immigration bill that would make more people eligible for legal status. AILA will be advocating for Congress to pass this bill and other bills that improve the U.S. immigration system. At this time, Congress has not passed any immigration bill into law. This means that no new options to apply for legal status have been created, and no broad legalization program has been adopted.
HOW QUICKLY WILL CHANGE OCCUR?
Although there have been many announcements with promised changes, many of them will take time to be implemented. Policies, rules, and laws will need to be put in place first. This means you may not see an immediate impact or be able to access new benefits in the short term.
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Contact your lawyer or legal service provider. Or if you do not currently have an immigration attorney, use AILA’s Immigration Lawyer Search to locate one.
WHAT CAN I DO?
- Contact a U.S. licensed lawyer or accredited representative for more information.
- Make sure your attorney has your updated contact information.
- Talk to your attorney about your expectations for processing your case.
- Until Congress passes an immigration bill and President Biden signs it into law, there are no new options for people to obtain legal status. Please be wary of individuals who tell you there are new options and attempt to solicit your business.
by ©2021 American Immigration Lawyers Association
This memorandum directs Department of Homeland Security components to conduct a review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement. It also sets interim policies during the course of that review, including a 100-day pause on certain removals to enable focusing the Department’s resources where they are most needed. The United States faces significant operational challenges at the southwest border as it is confronting the most serious global public health crisis in a century. In light of those unique circumstances, the Department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal and orderly processing, to rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process, to adopt appropriate public health guidelines and protocols, and to prioritize responding to threats to national security, public safety, and border security.
This memorandum should be considered Department-wide guidance, applicable to the activities of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
A. Comprehensive Review of Enforcement Policies and Priorities
The Chief of Staff shall coordinate a Department-wide review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement. Pursuant to the review, each component shall develop recommendations to address aspects of immigration enforcement, including policies for prioritizing the use of enforcement personnel, detention space, and removal assets; policies governing the exercise of prosecutorial discretion; policies governing detention; and policies regarding interaction with state and local law enforcement. These recommendations shall ensure that the Department carries out our duties to enforce the law and serve the Department’s mission in line with our values. The Chief of Staff shall provide recommendations for the issuance of revised policies at any point during this review and no later than 100 days from the date of this memo.
The memoranda in the attached appendix are hereby rescinded and superseded.
Due to limited resources, DHS cannot respond to all immigration violations or remove all persons unlawfully in the United States. Rather, DHS must implement civil immigration enforcement based on sensible priorities and changing circumstances. DHS’s civil immigration enforcement priorities are protecting national security, border security, and public safety. The review directed in section A will enable the development, issuance, and implementation of detailed revised enforcement priorities. In the interim and pending completion of that review, the Department’s priorities shall be:
1. National security. Individuals who have engaged in or are suspected of terrorism or espionage, or whose apprehension, arrest and/or custody is otherwise necessary to protect the national security of the United States.
2. Border security. Individuals apprehended at the border or ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States on or after November 1, 2020, or who were not physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020.
3. Public safety. Individuals incarcerated within federal, state, and local prisons and jails released on or after the issuance of this memorandum who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony,” as that term is defined in section 101(a) (43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act at the time of conviction, and are determined to pose a threat to public safety. These priorities shall apply not only to the decision to issue, serve, file, or cancel a Notice to Appear, but also to a broad range of other discretionary enforcement decisions, including deciding: whom to stop, question, and arrest; whom to detain or release; whether to settle, dismiss, appeal, or join in a motion on a case; and whether to grant deferred action or parole. In addition, all enforcement and detention decisions shall be guided by DHS’s ability to conduct operations and maintain custody consistent with applicable COVID-19 protocols.
While resources should be allocated to the priorities enumerated above, nothing in this memorandum prohibits the apprehension or detention of individuals unlawfully in the United States who are not identified as priorities herein. In order to ensure appropriate allocation of resources and exercise of prosecutorial discretion, the Acting Director of ICE shall issue operational guidance on the implementation of these priorities. This guidance shall contain a protocol for the Acting Secretary to conduct a periodic review of enforcement actions to ensure consistency with the priorities set forth in this memorandum. This guidance shall also include a process for the Director of ICE to review and approve of any civil immigration enforcement actions against individuals outside of federal, state or local prisons or jails.
February 1, 2021
C. Immediate 100-Day Pause on Removals
In light of the unique circumstances described above, DHS’s limited resources must be prioritized to: (1) provide sufficient staff and resources to enhance border security and conduct immigration and asylum processing at the southwest border fairly and efficiently; and (2) comply with COVID-19 protocols to protect the health and safety of DHS personnel and those members of the public with whom DHS personnel interact. In addition, we must ensure that our removal resources are directed to the Department’s highest enforcement priorities. Accordingly, and pending the completion of the review set forth in section A, I am directing an immediate pause on removals of any noncitizen1 with a final order of removal (except as noted below) for 100 days to go into effect as soon as practical and no later than January 22, 2021.
The pause on removals applies to any noncitizen present in the United States when this directive takes effect with a final order of removal except one who:
1. According to a written finding by the Director of ICE, has engaged in or is suspected of terrorism or espionage, or otherwise poses a danger to the national security of the United States; or
2. Was not physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020; or
3. Has voluntarily agreed to waive any rights to remain in the United States, provided that he or she has been made fully aware of the consequences of waiver and has been given a meaningful opportunity to access counsel prior to signing the waiver;2 or
4. For whom the Acting Director of ICE, following consultation with the General Counsel, makes an individualized determination that removal is required by law.
No later than February 1, 2021, the Acting Director of ICE shall issue written instructions with additional operational guidance on the further implementation of this removal pause. The guidance shall include a process for individualized review and consideration of the appropriate disposition for individuals who have been ordered removed for 90 days or more, to the extent necessary to implement this pause. The process shall provide for assessments of alternatives to removal including, but not limited to, staying or reopening cases, alternative forms of detention, custodial detention, whether to grant temporary deferred action, or other appropriate action.
D. No Private Right Statement
These guidelines and priorities are not intended to, do not, and may not be relied upon to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter.
Department of Homeland Security, Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest, Memorandum of February 20, 2017.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Implementing the President’s Border Security and Interior Immigration Enforcement Policies, Memorandum of February 20, 2017.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Guidance to OPLA Attorneys Regarding the Implementation of the President’s Executive Orders and the Secretary’s Directives on Immigration Enforcement, Memorandum of August 15, 2017.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens, Policy Memorandum of June 28, 2018. (US Citizenship and Immigration Services should revert to the preexisting guidance in Policy Memorandum 602-0050, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Revised Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Removable Aliens, Policy Memorandum of Nov. 7, 2011.)
US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) When Processing a Case Involving Information Submitted by a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Requestor in Connection with a DACA Request or a DACA-Related Benefit Request (Past or Pending) or Pursuing Termination of DACA, Policy Memorandum of June 28, 2018.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Executive Orders 13767 and 13768 and the Secretary’s Implementation Directions of February 17, 2017, Memorandum of February 21, 2017.
President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 establishes a new system to responsibly manage and secure our border, keep our families and communities safe, and better manage migration across the Hemisphere
President Biden is sending a bill to Congress on day one to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system. The bill provides hardworking people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship. The legislation modernizes our immigration system, and prioritizes keeping families together, growing our economy, responsibly managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution. The bill will stimulate our economy while ensuring that every worker is protected. The bill creates an earned path to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors, colleagues, parishioners, community leaders, friends, and loved ones—including Dreamers and the essential workers who have risked their lives to serve and protect American communities.
The U.S. Citizenship Act will:
PROVIDE PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP & STRENGTHEN LABOR PROTECTIONS
● Create an earned roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals. The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with
the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes. Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws.
● Keep families together. The bill reforms the family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times, and increasing per-country visa caps. It also eliminates the so-called “3 and 10-year bars,” and other provisions that keep families apart. The bill further supports familes by more explicitly including permanent partnerships and eliminating discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families. It also provides protections for orphans, widows, children, and Filipino veterans who fought alongside the United States in World War II. Lastly, the bill allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
● Embrace diversity. The bill includes the NO BAN Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans. The bill also increases Diversity Visas to 80,000 from 55,000.
● Promote immigrant and refugee integration and citizenship. The bill provides new funding to state and local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and not-for-profit organizations to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and provide assistance to individuals seeking to become citizens.
● Grow our economy. This bill clears employment-based visa backlogs, recaptures unused visas, reduces lengthy wait times, and eliminates per-country visa caps. The bill makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States; improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors; and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards. The bill provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and children are prevented from “aging out” of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development, gives DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
● Protect workers from exploitation and improve the employment verification process. The bill requires that DHS and the Department of Labor establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to make recommendations for improving the employment verification process. Workers who suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies will be granted greater access to U visa relief. The bill protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation in order to allow labor agencies to interview these workers. It also protects migrant and seasonal workers, and increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws.
PRIORITIZE SMART BORDER CONTROLS
● Supplement existing border resources with technology and infrastructure. The legislation builds on record budget allocations for immigration enforcement by authorizing additional funding for the Secretary of DHS to develop and implement a plan to deploy technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband at every land, air, and sea port of entry. This includes high-throughput scanning technologies to ensure that all commercial and passenger vehicles and freight rail traffic entering the United States at land ports of entry and rail-border crossings along the border undergo pre-primary scanning. It also authorizes and provides funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry to enhance the ability to process asylum seekers and detect, interdict, disrupt and prevent narcotics from entering the United States. It authorizes the DHS Secretary to develop and implement a strategy to manage and secure the southern border between ports of entry that focuses on flexible solutions and technologies that expand the ability to detect illicit activity, evaluate the effectiveness of border security operations, and be easily relocated and broken out by Border Patrol Sector. To protect privacy, the DHS Inspector General is authorized to conduct oversight to ensure that employed technology effectively serves legitimate agency purposes.
● Manage the border and protect border communities. The bill provides funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism. It also creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, provides more special agents at the DHS Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requires the issuance of department-wide policies governing the use of force. The bill directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the impact of DHS’s authority to waive environmental and state and federal laws to expedite the construction of barriers and roads near U.S. borders and provides for additional rescue beacons to prevent needless deaths along the border. The bill authorizes and provides funding for DHS, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and nongovernmental experts, to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.
● Crack down on criminal organizations. The bill enhances the ability to prosecute individuals involved in smuggling and trafficking networks who are responsible for the exploitation of migrants. It also expands investigations, intelligence collection and analysis pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to increase sanctions against foreign narcotics traffickers, their organizations and networks. The bill also requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and DHS, in coordination with the Secretary of State, to improve and expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.
ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION
● Start from the source. The bill codifies and funds the President’s $4 billion four-year inter-agency plan to address the underlying causes of migration in the region, including by increasing assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, conditioned on their ability to reduce the endemic corruption, violence, and poverty that causes people to flee their home countries. It also creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection, including by establishing Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America to register and process displaced persons for refugee resettlement and other lawful migration avenues—either to the United States or other partner countries. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.
● Improve the immigration courts and protect vulnerable individuals. The bill expands family case management programs, reduces immigration court backlogs, expands training for immigration judges, and improves technology for immigration courts. The bill also restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals. Funding is authorized for legal orientation programs and counsel for children, vulnerable individuals, and others when necessary to ensure the fair and efficient resolution of their claims. The bill also provides funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children, while clarifying sponsor responsibilities for such children.
● Support asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations. The bill eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs. It also increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000. The bill also expands protections for foreign nationals assisting U.S. troops.