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6 things Joe Biden will likely do on immigration

  • Published at 09:45 am November 8th, 2020
Joe Biden
Democratic 2020 US presidential nominee Joe Biden acknowledges the crowd at his election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 US presidential election, in Wilmington, Delaware on November 7, 2020 Reuters

Biden intends to rescind Trump’s travel bans on travelers from 13 countries, most of them either majority-Muslim or African nations

When he enters the White House, Joe Biden will likely seek to reverse much of President Donald Trump's immigration legacy and push ahead with his own agenda.

While some measures could be quickly rescinded, the multitude of Trump administration changes could take months or years to undo.

Here is what to expect from Biden in six key immigration policy areas:

Immigration reforms and ‘Dreamers’

Biden plans to send an immigration bill to Congress on his first day in office in January that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally, a campaign official told Reuters.

The bill would also address the status of so-called “Dreamers” living in the United States illegally after entering as children. Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) program started by former President Barack Obama, roughly 644,000 Dreamers are granted deportation relief and work permits.

Trump sought to end Daca, but the US Supreme Court ruled in June that his administration did not follow proper legal procedures.

Biden's immigration reform bill will include a path to citizenship for more than 400,000 people covered by the Temporary Protected Status program. Trump moved to phase out most enrollment in the program, but was slowed by legal challenges.

Trump’s travel bans

On Day One of his presidency, Biden intends to rescind Trump’s travel bans on travelers from 13 countries, most of them either majority-Muslim or African nations.

Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump issued an executive order that banned travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. The administration reworked the order several times amid legal challenges and the Supreme Court upheld a version of it in 2018. The countries subject to entry restrictions have changed over the years.

The bans could be easily undone, as they were issued by executive order and presidential proclamation, according to policy experts, but lawsuits from conservatives could delay the process.

Trump’s pandemic restrictions

Trump implemented a series of sweeping restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic that kept some legal immigrants and travelers from entering the United States.

The measures include travel bans that block the entry of many people coming from Brazil, China, Europe and Iran in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Trump also barred entry of certain immigrants seeking permanent residence and temporary foreign workers, including certain skilled workers with H-1B visas, saying he needed to protect American jobs.

A federal judge in October blocked Trump's temporary foreign worker ban from being applied to hundreds of thousands of businesses, a ruling the Trump administration has appealed.

While Biden has criticized some of these restrictions, he has not said if he would immediately reverse them. He has not commented on emergency border rules implemented in March that allow US authorities to rapidly expel border crossers, including unaccompanied children and asylum seekers.

A Biden campaign official told Reuters the Democrat would look to public health officials for guidance on pandemic-related border closures.

Skilled-foreign workers

The Trump administration finalized a pair of regulations in October that likely will curb US companies’ use of skilled foreign workers, especially in the tech industry.

The regulations significantly increase the minimum wages companies must pay to workers enrolled in the program. The rules also narrow the definition of “specialty occupations” eligible for the visas.

Biden has not said whether he would roll back the measures if elected, but his campaign website said he would work with Congress to reform the H-1B visa program to ensure the visas are "aligned with the labor market and not used to undermine wages."

After that, Biden would support expanding the number of high-skilled visas, the website says.


Biden has said he would raise the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to 125,000 but has not said how quickly that would happen.

Trump has sharply curbed refugee admissions and his administration announced in September that it would allow no more than 15,000 refugees in the 2021 fiscal year, a figure Biden will likely increase.

Refugee advocates caution it may take years to rebuild the pipeline of vetted refugees ready to travel to the United States, as well as the capacity of resettlement groups to receive them.

Biden said in late October that he would “immediately” grant humanitarian protections to Venezuelans living in the United States, which would allow them to remain in the country and obtain work permits. He cited economic hardship in that country under the government of President Nicolás Maduro.

The US-Mexico Border

Biden’s immigration plan would end the diversion of Pentagon funds to build a wall on the US-Mexican border and instead invest in screening infrastructure at ports of entry.

He said in August that he would not tear down border walls built under Trump but would halt construction.

Biden has vowed to end Trump's restrictive asylum policies, beginning with a program known as "remain in Mexico." Under the program, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, non-Mexican migrants are forced to wait in Mexico for their US immigration court dates.

During an October 22 presidential debate, Biden criticized the program, saying it left migrants "sitting in squalor" on the other side of the Rio Grande River, which separates the United States and Mexico.

Biden has said he will prioritize the reunification of any migrant children separated from their families under Trump administration policies.

As of October 20, lawyers and non-profit organizations seeking to reunite families separated at the US-Mexico border by the Trump administration were not able to locate the parents of 545 children.


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