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Immigration law and policy have always been a politically contested issue in the United States, but we have never seen more attacks on immigration than we’ve witnessed over the past four years.

Under the Trump administration’s tenure, the USCIS – the agency tasked with handling citizenship and visa applications – removed reference to the U.S. being a “nation of immigrants” in its mission statement and replaced it with language about “protecting Americans.” For many this crystallizes how the Trump administration has relentlessly changed the government’s approach to immigration.

Over the past 4 years, more than 900 policy changes have shrunk legal and illegal immigration channels into the United States. These include the infamous cases of horrific family separations, the Muslim travel ban, the asylum and refugee system overhauls that have led to dangerous makeshift migrant camps at the border, and pushing to abolish DACA. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic was used to justify the cessation of numerous visas such as the J-1, L-1, H-1/2B non-immigrant categories for the remainder of 2020.

The McEntee Law Group congratulates President-Elect Biden and Vice-President-Elect Harris on their victory and we look forward to seeing their administration advance their stated agenda on immigration. This includes: reversing restrictions on immigration put in place during the Trump administration; providing a “road map to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants; fully restoring DACA; ensuring a fair process for asylum seekers; keeping immigrant families together; and, reversing the ban on visas for foreign workers to enhance our economy in the wake of the global pandemic.

President-Elect Biden’s official immigration platform includes a commitment to immediately reversing some of Trump’s most controversial policies as early as Day 1 of the Biden-Harris administration taking office.

Some of President-Elect Biden’s key immigration priorities are:

Reinstating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Temporary Protected Status (TPS) & Creating a Roadmap to Citizenship

The DACA program has been relentlessly attacked by the Trump administration, leaving hundreds of thousands of young people to live in a perpetual state of uncertainty.

Biden has pledged to fully reinstate DACA upon taking office and to send a bill to Congress to make its protections permanent. The administration also plans to review Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designations to ensure people are not returned to countries that are unsafe.

His platform says the administration will “explore all legal options” to keep Dreamers, TPS holders, and their families together in the United States.

Biden has also vowed to make creating a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants a priority.

Restoring the U.S. Asylum System 

The Trump administration largely dismantled the U.S. asylum system through the implementation of disastrous policies and restrictions drastically limiting who can seek asylum. Asylum seekers are now forced to wait for their U.S. court hearings at the Mexico border in unsafe, makeshift migrant camps due to the Migrant Protection Protocols implemented by the Trump administration. This makes them vulnerable to cartel extortion, assault, and murder—all for an asylum court date that might never arrive.

The qualifications for asylum have also changed. Victims of gang and gender-based violence do not qualify for asylum anymore, while LGBTQ individuals have also faced increased challenges in seeking asylum in the United States.

Biden plans to do away with “metering,” a Trump policy that limits the number of people who can request asylum at ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border on a daily basis. Tens of thousands of vulnerable people have been turned back into Mexico where they must wait to begin the process of applying for asylum due to this daily limit.

Humanitarian groups along the border will also receive funding from the U.S. government to better serve migrants. Biden will give much-needed resources to shelters, non-governmental aid organizations, nonprofits, and refugee assistance agencies so they can support migrants while their asylum claims get processed.

Modernizing the U.S. Visa System

Many recent changes have also made it more difficult for people to come to the U.S. for business, work, or studies, including people who wish to come here as temporary workers, international students, and through our high-skilled categories. These visa restrictions could even exacerbate the long-term economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

The Biden administration will review the current system and perhaps increase the number of visas available in some categories and will also provide foreign workers with additional safeguards to prevent exploitation in the workplace.

His official platform also outlines a plan to give agricultural workers a fast-tracked path to obtaining a green card and citizenship based on prior agricultural work history in the United States. The goal is to make it easier for U.S. employers to hire and retain both seasonal and permanent workers.

Re-Vamping the Family-Based Immigration System

According to his campaign platform, the Biden administration would revamp some of the family-based immigration system. For example, they would recognize that the spouses and children of green card holders should be considered “immediate relatives”, thereby reducing the amount of time that they would have to wait to be reunited. The plan would also allow approved applicants stuck in immigrant visa backlogs to receive permission to enter the U.S. temporarily.

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The reality is that many of the Trump administration’s policies may take years to change. For some, the damage of those policies could be permanent. Partisanship in Congress and competing priorities caused by the pandemic could all contribute to extensive legislative delays.

Biden’s immigration plan is a strong start and it provides hope that things will get better for the immigration in this country. However, the real work of rebuilding our country into a nation that accepts and embraces immigrants will take years of continued dedication to fight the age-old narrative that vilifies immigrants.  As the American Immigration Council has stated, this is a “culture battle”, that will take perseverance in the advocacy and education against the misinformed concept that immigrants pose a threat to Americans and America’s well-being.

The Biden-Harris administration undoubtedly signifies a more progressive stance for immigration and this we welcome with open arms. It’s a starting point for moving forward and we’re excited to get to work! Finally, a reminder that the support of the Senate will be critical to some of the Biden/Harris’ immigration agenda so for now… all eyes remain on Georgia.

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