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What is President Joe Biden's Immigration Agenda?

August 17, 2021
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Summary

Since taking office, Democratic President Biden and Vice President Harris have directed federal agencies to address immigration far differently than the previous administration. In late January of 2021, the Biden administration announced their new U.S. immigration reform plan, which focuses on increasing access to legal immigration and reforming immigration enforcement.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, who can apply for temporary protected status (TPS). After five years, they can even apply for legal status through green cards if they pass background checks and pay taxes. Dreamers, TPS holders, and farmworkers who meet specific requirements would be immediately eligible for green cards. All green card holders could apply to become U.S. citizens three or five years later. 

The new administration also hopes to reform family immigration policy. It proposes clearing backlogs, reducing green card wait times, and increasing per-country visa caps. It also allows migrants to join their families in the United States while waiting for green cards to become available. 

Biden also wants to increase the number of employment visas by clearing backlogs and eliminating per-country caps. The plan allows the children and spouses of H-1B visa holders to access work authorization. It also makes it easier for graduates of American colleges with advanced STEM degrees to remain in the United States. 

The White House’s bill also addresses national security and border protection. It gives the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funds to decide how to use technology to identify narcotics and other illicit goods. It improves infrastructure to better the asylum system. The bill also funds immigration law enforcement training. 

Finally, the bill focuses on addressing the root causes of migration. It increases assistance to Central American countries, which the pandemic has taken a toll on, intending to reduce the number of asylum seekers from the region. 

In February, Democrats introduced the bill in both chambers of Congress. They have also introduced more narrow immigration bills. Regardless, it will be a difficult battle to gain Republican support and push a bipartisan immigration reform bill through the Senate. 

Since taking office, in the first 100 days, Biden has also undone many of former President Donald Trump's controversial policies through executive actions. He increased the refugee admissions cap for 2021. Biden used the executive order to end the Trump administration's travel ban on immigrants from primarily Muslim countries. He halted the construction of the southern border wall along the U.S.- Mexico Border. Biden re-included undocumented immigrants in the 2020 Census count. He stopped President Trump's executive order to focus on the immediate deportation of all undocumented immigrants, regardless of their family status. He removed the public charge rule that intended to deny permanent residence to lower-income individuals. Biden also directed the DHS to protect the DACA program created during the Obama administration.

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