On Wednesday, January 20, 2021 a new administration under President Joseph R. Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris was sworn in. Very quickly, in a welcome move for immigration lawyers like us, they unveiled a very bold and comprehensive immigration program that is bold, ambitious, and reflects what we have fought for. The last four years have been very difficult while we tried to reassure your anxieties while fighting zealously and making sure your interests were always protected. Thank you for your patience, thank you for your continued hope and belief that the United States is the country of dreams and aspirations. Indeed, the election of the daughter of immigrants who came to the United States seeking the very same dreams that you have for your family and your children as the first female African American and South Asian Vice-President speaks of the possibility of America. Her story is our story and your story. Below is a summary of what the new administration has done through executive action and what this administration is proposing by way of legislation. Please note that some of the changes in immigration laws are done through executive power and have an immediate effect, others only Congress has the power to change, and we suspect that the Republicans will mount a strong opposition to such proposals, and it is doubtful that all these changes will become law. Still, it is a welcome sight to see immigration become one of the first problems that the administration wants to tackle. Please keep in touch with our office for updated information and how this will affect you.
Summary of Some of the Important Current Memorandums and Executive Orders:
Executive Order Effective Immediately
Removal of Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States for Certain Muslim and African Countries
On January 20th, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order ending the discriminatory Muslim and Africa travel bans that separated many families for the past years. As a result, effective immediately, foreign nationals from certain Muslim counties such as Iran, Syria, Yemen, or African countries such as Nigeria or Eritrea are no longer banned from entering the United States. Those who are being considered for a waiver will obtain their visa. Individuals who have been previously denied under the previous ban will have their application reconsidered. However, this may take some time, and it is important that you discuss with one of our attorneys on how to proceed.
Preserving and Protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
On January 20th, President Joe Biden issued a memorandum aimed to protect and preserve DACA. The memo does not make any immediate changes to the DACA program. However, it ensures that USCIS continues to accept new DACA applications and renewals for the time being. USCIS will grant deferred action and employment authorization in two-year increments to those who qualify, and USCIS will accept advanced parole applications. President Biden intends to introduce a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients though it would have to pass Congress to become law. Our law office will continue to provide you with updates.
Suspension of Deportation for Certain Individuals for 100 Days
On January 20th President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order that suspended the deportation of certain individuals who have not been convicted of an aggravated felony for 100 days and ordered their release from ICE custody.
Proposed Legislation that needs to be passed by Congress
Summary of United States Citizenship Act of 2021
- Individuals who are undocumented and have been in the United States before January 1, 2021, can apply for temporary legal status that can become permanent if they have no criminal or national security concerns and paid taxes.
- Those that were brought to this country at a young age, commonly referred to as Dreamers, those that were granted Temporary Protected Status and farmworkers can apply immediately for permanent legal status (Green card).
- After three years as a permanent resident, they are eligible to apply for citizenship.
- Individuals who were deported on or after January 20, 2017 (when the Trump administration began) but were physically present in the United States for three years before they were deported can apply for the benefits above and have the physical presence requirement above waived.
- Changing the word “alien” used in the immigration statute to “noncitizen”
Family based immigration,
- Clearing backlogs, eliminate lengthy wait times, increase per country caps
(Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office note: individuals that file petitions for family members must wait lengthy periods of time while visas become available. Countries like Mexico, Philippines, India and China have even longer wait times because of numerical caps)
- Eliminate 3 and10- year bars
(Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office note: Currently if an individual has been present in the United States longer than six months or one year, that person may not adjust status for either 3 or 10 years)
- Seeks to protect Filipinos and families who fought with us in WW2.
- Allows immigrants with approved family-based petitions to come to the United States while waiting for their priority dates to be current.
- Diversity Visa lottery program will continue and the number of visas available increased to 80,000.
(Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office note: DV lottery continues to be an extremely popular program utilized by many Ethiopians without family ties to come to the United States)
- No future bans based on religion
(Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office note The Biden Administration has rescinded the Muslim Ban responsible for separating so many of our clients from their families.)
Asylum and Other Humanitarian Protections
- Eliminates the one-year deadline rule for applying for asylum
- Funding to reduce asylum applicant backlogs
- Increased protections for U, T and VAWA
- U Visa cap raised to 30K
- Expanded protections for foreign nationals assisting US troops
- Expands family case management
- Reduces backlogs
- Expanded training for Immigration Judges
- Gives judges and adjudicators discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals
- Funding for legal orientation programs and counsel for children, vulnerable individuals, and others when necessary
- Funding to school districts educating unaccompanied children
Employment based visas
- Clear backlogs and extensive wait times as well as eliminating per country caps
- H-1B dependents can get employment authorization and their children will not age-out
- Commission involving labor, employer and civil rights organizations to recommend improvements to employment verification system
- U visa relief for serious labor violations and for workers who cooperate with agencies related to worker protection (Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office Note: U visas are nonimmigrants visas given to victims of serious crimes in the United States who are cooperating with law enforcement in the prosecution of the perpetrators of the crime)
- Protection for victims of workforce retaliation
- Increased penalties for victims of workforce retaliation and on employers who violate labor laws
Border Related Matters
- Increase technology use to identify contraband
- Funding to increase Port of Entry infrastructure to process asylum applicants
- Funding for training and continuing education for agent/officer safety and professionalism
- Creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee
- More special agents to investigate allegations of misconduct
- Review Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authority to waive environmental and state/federal laws for building barriers/walls
- DHS and Health and Human Services (HHS) and NGO experts to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.
- Expand ability to prosecute smuggling and trafficking networks exploiting migrants. Expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.
- Increase assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
- Creates Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America for people to register and process displaced people for refugee status and resettlement.
- Reinstates Central American Minors program to reunite children with US relatives. (Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office Note: The nightmare of child separation is one of the most despicable things that ever happened)
12.. Creates Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to reunite families quickly who have approved family sponsorship petitions.
As always, we will continue our over twenty-five-year tradition of serving you, our clients with compassion and excellence.
Your dedicated team of Attorneys and Staff at Yemi Getachew Immigration Law Office