President Biden’s Immigration Plan – Everything You Need to Know About the Immigration Reform Bill
We have a new President and he’s pushing for major changes to the U.S. immigration system. Some of these changes were enacted on his first day in the office and are already impacting pending cases. Others are in process and will be completed soon. The rest will take action by Congress, and may or may not ever become law.
The Biden Administration announced the lofty goal of reforming “our long-broken and chaotic immigration system” and noted that “President Biden’s strategy is centered on the basic premise that our country is safer, stronger, and more prosperous with a fair and orderly immigration system that welcomes immigrants”. This shouldn’t be a controversial position, but after four years of anti-immigrant rhetoric, it feels downright revolutionary, and very exciting, to hear these words coming from the U.S. executive branch. So….how are they going to make this happen?
Here’s what we know now, what might be coming soon, and what to keep your eye on during the first few months of the Biden Administration.
What Did Biden Do on Day 1? (These are just the highlights!)
Ended the “Muslim Ban” – In his first month in office, President Trump issued a travel ban prohibiting entry to the U.S. for immigrants from several majority-Muslim countries. Some eligible immigrants with approved cases have been stuck abroad for YEARS, unable to be reunited with their families in the U.S. No longer. Now, eligible immigrants from these countries can apply for visas, and those with already approved cases can travel to the U.S. without fear of exclusion based on merely their religion or country of origin.
Committed to DACA – President Biden ordered DHS to “take all actions” necessary and appropriate to “preserve and fortify” the DACA program, which offers a work permit and protection from deportation to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children, have fulfilled educational requirements, and have no concerning criminal history. This process will take several months as DHS goes through the legally required administrative process to make any changes to the DACA program. Anticipated changes include extending work permits from 2 to 4 years, and expanding eligibility to include children who arrived in the U.S. after 2007, which is the current cut-off date for DACA eligibility.
Paused Deportations for 100-Days – President Biden issued a pause on most deportations for 100-days in order to reallocate federal resources to secure the southern border while ensuring a safe, legal asylum process. During the 100-day pause, President Biden has directed DHS to establish meaningful guidelines to identify which undocumented immigrants are the priority for deportation, which had been eliminated under President Trump’s direction. Without priority guidelines, the daycare teacher with 3 U.S. citizen kids and no criminal history who always pays her taxes have the same deportation priority as a convicted felon. President Biden is seeking to re-establish priorities so that the deportation system is used sensibly in support of national security and public safety. This order to pause deportations was challenged in federal court and the case is currently pending.
Sent a Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill to Congress – More on this below…it’s so massive and contains so many changes it deserves more than a paragraph!
What is Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill?
On his first day in office, President Biden submitted proposed legislation to Congress which, if passed, would create massive changes to the U.S. immigration system. The proposed legislation would be the largest overhaul of the U.S. immigration system since the Reagan-era immigration reforms of the 1980s.
The proposed Immigration Reform bill is now with Congress, which will debate the bill and determine if any changes are needed. This process could take weeks or months and no one knows what the final bill might look like or when Congress might vote on the final bill. We expect a lot of negotiation and substantial changes to the proposed legislation before it is voted on by Congress.
Here are some of the key provisions included in Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill:
- Grant temporary legal status and 8-year path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants present in the United States on Jan 1, 2021
- Provide green cards for members of certain special immigration programs like DACA and TPS
- Increase per-country visa limits for family visas
- Clear the decades-long backlog of certain employment and family visas
- Eliminate per-country visa limits for employment visas
- Cancel certain bars to residency for people who left the U.S. after a prior period of unauthorized stay
- Provide work permits to family members of H1-B visa holders
There is so much to talk about in this bill! In a future update, we’ll tell you more about the proposed changes. We’ll identify who is eligible for status, what documents and evidence might be needed, and discuss how likely it is the bill will pass. For now, it’s enough to recognize that a massive, meaningful, comprehensive immigration reform is urgently needed. So much of our immigration system is broken, and these changes are necessary if we hope to create a functioning, fair immigration system that values families and businesses while incentivizing legal immigration.
Did you know that U.S. citizens have the legal right to request immigration status for their family members, but it currently takes about twenty-five YEARS for a U.S. citizen to get a green card for his sibling who is a Mexican national? Cases filed in the 90s are just now being adjudicated. That decades-long delay to legal immigration is equivalent to not having an option to legally immigrate. A system this deeply broken can’t be fixed with small tweaks or subtle changes. The reimagining of America’s immigration laws and policies is long overdue.
When Will the Immigration Reform Bill Become Law?
No one knows. There is a lot of excitement about the new law, but also quite a bit of confusion and misunderstanding about the fact that it is currently just a proposal – an idea, a hope, a possibility – not a reality. It is not yet law. It will only become law if approved by Congress and no one can predict if or when that might happen. No one can apply for any immigration status under the Biden Immigration Reform Bill because it is not yet law.
We’ll keep you up to date with any developments and will provide a clear guidance about who is eligible and how you can apply, as soon as the bill passes. I’m so grateful to be able to do the work I do and to guide families on their U.S. immigration journey. I am eager to stand with my colleagues to offer expertise and insights to ensure this vision becomes a reality.