In President Biden's three weeks in office so far, he has signed 30 executive orders, on topics ranging from climate change, gender discrimination, health, and incarceration.
A few weeks ago we wrote about the six immigration executive orders that Biden signed on his first day in office, and today we want to update you on four new executive orders that will have a substantial impact on immigration in the months to come.
- Refugee Resettlement
February 4, 2021, Biden renewed the country's commitment to the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP), and expressed a plan to make the program more transparent. One of the biggest changes in this Order is the government's re-commitment to helping those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq as interpreter allies for U.S. troops. Under the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs, humanitarian protection is supposed to be provided to Iraqi and Afghani nationals experiencing an ongoing, serious threat because of their service as allies to the U.S. The SIV program for interpreters has experienced years of delays, and in some cases the delays have resulted in violence against interpreters in their home countries. Under this Order, the Secretary of State must submit a report to the president within 180 days detailing why the program has been so slow-moving, and provide steps to accelerate the SIV visas.
- Safe Processing of Asylum Seekers
Through the February 2, 2021 Executive Order on Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, to Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border, Biden provides a generalized outline of something called “the Root Causes strategy.” Under that Strategy, Biden will cause “place-based efforts” to be coordinated in the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) to “find out the root causes of migration” by combating corruption and violence, promoting human rights and the rule of law. It is not yet clear what “place-based efforts” will look like - i.e. whether Biden will attempt to open a USAID office in certain places, or partner with local organizations and governments in the Northern Triangle.
Among other things, the rest of the Order seeks two objectives: 1) to implement expedited removal processes, and 2) to evaluate whether the U.S. standard for asylum claims meets international standards.
It is yet to be seen what an “expedited removal process” will look like. The Order states that Biden wants the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to make recommendations on “creating a more efficient and orderly process that facilitates timely adjudications and adherence to standards of fairness and due process.” This could be beneficial, so that people won't stay for months imprisoned without hearings, but we will be watching to see what new processes DHS puts in place under Biden's guidance.
- Restoring Faith in the Immigration System
Like many statements made in the above orders, Biden's directives in the Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans are not yet program changes; they are directives to agency heads to review the policies in place to make them more immigrant-friendly, and “consistent with our character as a Nation of opportunity and of welcome.” Biden has directed agencies to specifically review policies in place regarding public charge inadmissibility and naturalization.
- Reunifying Families
Certainly one of the biggest blights in recent history upon our nation has been the policy that separated children from their parents at the southern border of the United States. In the Executive Order on the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, Biden establishes a specific department (the Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families) to facilitate and enable the reunification of separated children with their parents. As of December 2020, 628 parents of separated children are still missing.
We are hopeful that the ensuing changes from these orders (and the recommendations given to Biden from the different agency heads) will result in positive policy shifts that provide a smoother path to residency and citizenship for immigrants.
If you would like to have an appointment with one of our immigration attorneys please reach out to us at (757) 422-8472, or send us a message on our website. You can also schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys by clicking on this link.