Immigration Updates from the Biden Administration


Last week, our office published a blog post regarding the Biden Administration’s 100-day pause on deportations issued on January 20, 2021. The complete post can be found here. Unfortunately, on January 26, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a 14-day temporary restraining order on the deportation pause.

The restraining order was sought by Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who following the court decision, stated, “I commend the Court for prioritizing the law and safety of our citizens, and I will continue to defend Texas against the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of President Biden and his Administration.”

The order issued by the District Court will remain in effect while a broader preliminary injunction is considered. Federal Judge Drew B. Tipton, a Trump appointee, ruled that the suspension of deportation would “violate a provision of the immigration statute as well as another law that required agencies to provide a rational explanation for their policy decisions.” A decision regarding whether to grant the restraining order is expected in the coming weeks.

In addition to the pause on deportations, President Biden rescinded the “Muslim Ban,” implemented by the Trump Administration. The ban was issued on January 27, 2017, barring citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. President Biden’s proclamation to end this ban will allow for the reunification of thousands of families that have been separated for several years.

Apart from the rescission of the Muslim Ban during his first day in office, President Biden issued another proclamation, pausing construction of the U.S.-Mexico Border wall and ordered a review of its funding. According to the Washington Post, the Biden Administration can save 2.6 billion dollars by halting construction on the wall.

Overall, more executive orders from the Biden Administration are anticipated in the coming weeks. Immigrants as well as their advocates are hopeful that the new administration will bring about positive reform throughout the country.

Biden Administration to Halt Certain Deportations for 100 Days

On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States. Since his inauguration, President Biden has already issued new policies that will affect immigrants throughout the country. Several hours following President Biden’s inauguration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memorandum to halt deportations for 100 days, beginning this week.

The newly issued memo aims to halt the majority of deportations due to “significant operational challenges at the southwest border as it is confronting the most serious global public health crisis in a century.” The overall goal of this policy is to ensure safe and legal processing at the border, restore fair asylum procedures, as well as prioritize the administration’s response to national security and public safety threats.

Not all deportations, however, will be halted. Deportations may continue for immigrants “who engage in or are suspected of terrorism or espionage, were not physically present in the U.S. by Nov. 1, 2020, or have voluntarily waived any rights to remain in the U.S. provided they were made fully aware of the consequences of the waiver.”

In addition, the 100-day deportation pause does not apply to immigrants apprehended at the border. Since March of 2020, most immigrants who have been caught trying to enter the U.S. unlawfully by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) have been expelled without the ability to seek immigration relief. This was due to the Trump’s Administration reliance on the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s Title 42 Order, suspending the entry of certain immigrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, the introduction of this deportation pause by President Biden marks a swift change from the Trump’s Administration hardline stance on immigration. Hopefully, President Biden will continue to fulfill his campaign promise to reform the immigration system and to ensure the safety and rights of immigrants throughout the country.

President-Elect Joe Biden Suggests Slow Immigration Changes

Throughout his campaign and following his victory in the presidential election, Joe Biden has promised immigration reform. Over the last month, our office has published several posts regarding the President-elect’s promise for change within immigration. This week, President-elect Biden stated that although he hopes to reverse the damage caused by the Trump Administration, he is aiming for a slow approach in order to avoid a rush of “2 million people on our border.”

President-elect Joe Biden has previously stated that he plans to eliminate the “Remain in Mexico” policy set by the Trump Administration, which requires Central American migrants to remain in Mexico while their asylum claims are processed. However, during a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware this week, Biden stated, “The last thing we need is to say we’re going to stop immediately the, you know, the access to asylum the way it’s being run now and end up with 2 million people on our border.”

In regards to fulfilling his immigration reform promises, Biden also revealed that this will take time, stating, “It’s a matter of setting up the guardrails.” While Biden’s promises for reform have been a source of hope for many immigrants, his recent statements show that change will not be swift.

Immigrant advocates have been pushing President-elect Biden to implement broad changes to the immigration system, one that the Trump Administration has centered around detention and deportation over the last four years. In regards to Biden’s recent comments, Kennji Kizuka, a senior researcher and policy analyst Human Rights First, stated, “There needs to be some sense of urgency. There are a lot of refugees who are in danger in Mexico and who can be processed safely.”

While the future remains to be seen, it is vital for President-elect Joe Biden to fulfill his promises for reforming immigration in an effective manner that will ensure the safety and rights of immigrants.

How Will Joe Biden Change Immigration Policies?

When Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021, he will face many challenges:  the Coronavirus pandemic, global climate change, and economic instability are probably the top concerns on his agenda.  But it’s worth considering how immigration policies and laws might change under the Biden Administration.

We don’t yet know which political party will control the Senate.  Georgia has a special election on January 5, 2021 that will determine the winners of the state’s two Senate seats.  Both Democratic candidates would need to win in order for the Senate to end up with 50 Senators affiliated with the Democratic Party, and 50 Republicans.  In that scenario, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaker, giving Democrats control of the Senate.  But if either one or two Republican candidates in Georgia win their Senate races, then Republicans will retain control of the Senate.

Control of the Senate will determine how much Biden will be able to accomplish on immigration and many other issues.

In any event, perhaps one of the first immigration issues Joe Biden will address will simply be to get the U.S. consulates around the world to return to work and begin issuing visas again.  Under the Trump Administration, the processing of visas slowed down to a crawl, especially for applicants in Africa, Asia, and South America.  Applicants in Haiti, for example, received 67 percent fewer immigrant visas  between 2016 and 2019 than previously.  Applicants in Iran experienced a drop of nearly 80 percent.  And that time period, of course, was before the Coronavirus pandemic.

For applicants applying for permanent residence within the United States, Joe Biden will need to undo many of Trump’s policies that slowed down USCIS in the processing of applications.

Biden will also face a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border created by Trump, whose punishing policies turned away thousands of Central American asylum applicants.  Many of those persons are in dangerous conditions in Mexico, waiting for an opportunity to simply ask for asylum in the United States.

DACA is another issue that Biden likely will try to address.  A lasting solution – a path to permanent residence and citizenship – would require the approval of Congress.  In the meantime, Biden might try to undo Trump’s damage to the DACA program, perhaps by returning renewals to two-year periods (rather than one) and allowing applications from persons who have never had DACA in the past.

And there are yet more immigration issues for Biden:   What to do with Trump’s unfinished border wall?  How to undo Trump’s “Muslim ban”?  How to return the refugee resettlement program to normal levels after Trump severely cut it back?

Joe Biden will need to face all of these immigration issues, and more, in 2021 and beyond.

Joe Biden Administration Plans Sweeping Changes for Immigration


Joe Biden’s monumental presidential win has ushered in a new era of hope for immigrants. President-elect Joe Biden has already planned sweeping changes to immigration for his first weeks in office. This will mark a vast shift from the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate immigration to the United States over the last four years.

CBS news obtained an advance look into the changes that President-elect Joe Biden hopes to enact next year. These changes include fully restoring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which the Trump administration tried to end. Currently, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is only accepting renewals for DACA, while the new changes would allow for first time applications.

The Biden administration also plans to rescind the Muslim Travel Ban that President Trump put into place, severely limiting immigration to the United States for citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries. Many immigrants from these countries have been stuck overseas for several years due to this ban.

Additional changes include implementing “a 100-day freeze on deportations while looking at ways to deprioritize the removals of undocumented immigrants who aren’t violent criminals.” This would be drastically different from President Trump’s designation of all undocumented immigrants as priorities for removal.

The Biden Administration also plans to undo the damage wrought by President Trump on migrants seeking asylum at the southern border by withdrawing agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, which allowed the U.S. to send back asylum seekers to these countries.

While these proposed changes by the Biden administration are encouraging, we must wait until next year to see what unfolds. Regardless, it is time for positive change and a chance to undo the damage that has been done by the Trump administration to immigration.

America Has Elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

America has elected Joe Biden as the next President and Kamala Harris as the next Vice President of the United States.  They will take the oath of office and begin their four-year term on January 20, 2021.

Between now and January 19, 2021, unfortunately, Donald Trump is still the president.

We do not yet know how the Biden-Harris Administration will be changing immigration procedures that could affect the lives of many persons, perhaps millions of persons.

One thing we can say:  Things will very likely not get any worse than they were under Donald Trump.  We believe that Joe Biden will keep his promise to end some of the most horrible and shameful policies of the Trump Administration.  We expect that children will no longer be put in cages.  We expect that people will again be able to apply for asylum.

Joe Biden recently stated that during his first 100 days, he wants to send a bill to Congress to reform immigration law.  Let’s hope that he does that, and let’s hope that Joe Biden plans to reform immigration law in ways that will help the approximately 11 million persons currently in the United States without permission.  We certainly don’t know the details yet.  But at least we have hope.

Perhaps most importantly, we now know that beginning January 20, 2021, Donald Trump will no longer be president of the United States.

With the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we feel that a great burden has been lifted from our shoulders.  Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant statements and false claims will become a thing of the past.  The Biden-Harris Administration will begin a new era of more respectful behaviors and more appropriate responses to immigration matters.

Along with many other millions of people in the United States, and many more millions around the world, we congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and we are very much looking forward to January 20, 2021 and beyond.

Reflections after the election

I want to give you some thoughts about the future, after the results of the presidential election.

I do not know whether we will get any significant changes in immigration laws during the next 4 years.  It is possible, but it is also possible that there might not be changes.  It will depend on the priorities of the Trump Administration and on the actions of Congress.

For persons who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, the election of Donald Trump should not result in any particularly new or different problems for you with respect to U.S. immigration laws.

For everyone else, if there are significant changes in immigration laws, the laws might actually help, or they might make things worse.  At this time, we just don’t know.  If there are changes in the laws, we also don’t know how quickly or slowly such changes might occur.  Things in Washington often move more slowly than we might think at first.

It is possible that the way cases are handled by the various immigration agencies will become stricter, but that also will not happen overnight.  There are thousands of immigration officials employed at USCIS, ICE, and CBP (Customs and Border Protection), and so if there are changes in procedures, they might happen slowly, if at all.  At this time, we just don’t know what changes in procedures might occur.

Probably most of the thousands of current employees in the federal government will remain working at their jobs.  Most will probably continue to handle cases the same way that they have been handling them up to now.  It is possible that the Trump Administration could call for changes in the way that cases are handled, but again, many of those changes (if any) take time to be implemented.

Some programs, such as the I-601A Provisional Waiver Program, remain in place.  A program such as I-601A could only be changed through an official process, which could take 6 months or longer.

Other programs, such as DACA, could be eliminated more quickly.  The future of DACA as of January 20, 2016 is uncertain.

I think that it is possible that CBP (the officials at the airports and the borders) might become tougher and stricter in their encounters with persons traveling into the United States.  I always advise that you communicate with me before you travel.  Now, with the election results, I want you to know that you might possibly face a more difficult encounter with CBP when you return to the United States.  We don’t know how CBP might change the way they do their job.  At this time, the best we can say is that they might become more strict.

For persons who have cases in Immigration Court, and whose cases have been administratively closed, the future is uncertain.  There exists the possibility that the new administration could order ICE to continue with your case in Immigration Court.  At this time, we do not know what the new administration might, or might not, do with cases that have been administratively closed.  If your case returns to the Immigration Court, or to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), then we will have the right to continue to argue on your behalf to try to obtain any immigration benefits in Immigration Court or the BIA to which you may be entitled.

Adjudicators will not instantly start deciding cases differently from how they are doing it now. A case that would be approved today will be approved in the first few months of Trump’s presidency. There could be rapid change in specific types of cases due to a policy change – DACA is the most likely target of such a policy change – but the majority of cases will be decided the same as before.

New administrations can change how things are done, but there are laws preventing that from happening too quickly.

For cases that we are currently preparing, I expect we will be able to finish before substantial, sweeping change takes place. I cannot promise that a sudden policy change won’t affect your case, but I believe it is unlikely. The best thing to do is carry on and try to finish as quickly as possible. You can help me in that regard by providing me with requested information and documentation as quickly as possible when I request it. The sooner we finish your case, the better.

You will have questions that I will be unable to answer because I do not know the future. My promise to you is that I will do the best possible job on your case. Do not despair. Keep moving forward.

If after reading this you still have questions, please send them and I will respond as soon as I can.

What are the chances for immigration reform?

Now that the Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, the House has the opportunity to address the issue.  What will the House do?

 It appears that, in the short term, there is little political incentive for House Republicans to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Of the 435 voting members in the House of Representatives, Republicans hold 234 seats, while Democrats hold 201.  As Janet Hook reports in the Wall Street Journal, of the 234 Republican members of the House, only 38 Republican members represent congressional districts that have Latino populations of 20 percent or higher.  And only 28 Republican members face even a small risk of a serious challenge by Democratic candidates in the 2014 House elections.  As a result, it seems that, for now, House Republicans would have little to gain politically by voting for an immigration reform package.  Moreover, many House Republicans would stand to face criticism from their congressional districts and possible election challenges from more conservative candidates, if they were to vote for a comprehensive immigration package.

 Long-term demographics, however, may play a role in the voting decisions of some House Republicans.  It appears that some states, including Texas and Arizona, that currently tend to vote for Republicans in local, state, and national elections, will likely be shifting over time towards electing Democratic candidates.  If, and when, such shifts will occur is anybody’s guess.  But some House Republicans might take these factors into account and consider the increasing electoral clout of Latinos and other immigrant groups.  Although currently most House Republicans face few serious electoral challenges from Democrats, they likely will face such challenges in the next 3 to 5 electoral cycles.

 For now, it is impossible to predict whether or not the House of Representatives will pass comprehensive immigration legislation.  It is also impossible to predict whether, if the House passes legislation, the Senate and President Obama will agree to sign such legislation.


Call for Obama to improve the immigration system

The New York Times has called for President Obama to use his powers as President to fix some of the most pressing problems in the immigration system.  Among the issues that President Obama could address are the following:

  • End the “Secure Communities” program, which many law enforcement officials have criticized.  The program was aimed at removing dangerous criminals from the United States, but appears to be used instead to remove many who have clean records.
  • Grant relief from deportation for those individuals who would qualify under the DREAM Act.
  • Allow immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens to become lawful permanent residents without having to leave the United States.

Please click here to read the New York Times editorial.

Opinion: “Border Security First” Advocates Block Real Immigration Reform

The Center for American Progress recently published a thoughtful opinion piece criticizing the focus of some legislators on obtaining an impossibly secure border before considering comprehensive immigration reform.

The authors of this piece argue that, although border security is important, legislators should pursue that goal along with, and not instead of, comprehensive immigration reform.

Click here to read the opinion piece.