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President Biden Addresses Immigration Issues on Day One

President Joe Biden took office yesterday, Jan. 20, 2021, and immediately got to work. He signed a number of executive orders regarding topics like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and—most relevantly—immigration. In addition to these executive orders, a broader immigration reform bill is currently in the works that would provide numerous benefits to those seeking lawful permanent residency in the U.S.

Yesterday’s executive orders related to immigration include:

  • The repeal of former President Donald Trump’s travel ban on primarily Muslim countries, colloquially known as the “Muslim Ban”
  • Protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children
  • Reprioritizing immigration enforcement policies to focus on undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with criminal convictions
  • The deferment of the enforced departure for qualifying Liberians until at least June 30, 2022
  • Rescinding the national emergency declaration that sent about $10 billion in funds from the Defense Department to the build the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Private contractors have also been ordered to “pause” work on the wall within seven days.

Likewise, the more comprehensive reform bill that Biden has proposed to Congress is called the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021”. The bill’s content is still a work in progress, but some highlights of what it is expected to propose include:

  • Laying out a citizenship path for undocumented immigrants
  • Recapturing unused visas and increasing per-country caps to reduce the backlog of family-based green cards
  • Recapturing unused visas and removing the per-country cap entirely to reduce the backlog of employment-based green cards
  • Granting work authorization to H-4 dependents and removing the maximum age limit of 21 years for dependent children
  • Granting DHS the power to adjust the number of available green cards each fiscal year
  • Providing an easier route for international graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to remain in the U.S.

Finally, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain issued a regulatory freeze on new or pending rules instituted during the final days of the Trump administration. The freeze will remain in effect until the Biden administration has the chance to review the new policies. Some of these rules put on hold (and likely to be withdrawn) include:

  • Requirement to select H-1B workers based on the highest salary for that job in that area
  • Redefining of the employee-employer relationship for H-1B purposes
  • Requirement by the Department of Labor (DOL) that end clients be involved and invested in the H-1B process

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