On January 20, 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden became the 46th President of the United States, while former California Senator Kamala Harris became the first female Vice President in the country’s history. One of the priorities the new administration will focus on is immigration.
Speaking with Univision’s Ilia Calderón on January 12, 2020, Vice President Harris revealed a sweeping immigration reform bill that the incoming administration quickly plans to introduce. From offering a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants to decreasing the massive immigration court backlogs, Biden is attempting to undo many of Trump’s policies starting the first day he takes office.
The following is an overview of the immigration issues the Biden administration plans to address.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) & Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Programs
Following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to block the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA, President Biden vowed to make DACA permanent. Harris said their bill would grant green cards right away to immigrants protected by the Obama-era policy, as well as those under the TPS program.
She added that the plan also includes a decrease in the amount of time needed to obtain U.S. citizenship from 13 years to eight years by increasing the efficiency of the naturalization process. However, Harris did not mention how these changes would occur.
Refugees & Asylum
The Trump administration made it more difficult for refugees to seek asylum in the United States. One program was known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for a U.S. immigration court hearing.
During his campaign, the president promised he would terminate the program on day one. Yet, his transition team said taking apart MPP and restoring other asylum protections would not be as immediate.
Furthermore, Biden pledged to increase the cap for refugees from 15,000 to 125,000. The 15,000-limit cap that was issued by Trump in 2020 is the lowest number in U.S. history.
Due to the influx of asylum cases over the years, U.S. immigration courts are overburdened with a massive case backlog. To address this situation, the vice president said they hoped to add more judges to relieve the backlog.
Travel & Visa Bans
One of the Trump administration’s first actions was issuing a travel ban that includes countries with mostly Muslim residents. The current ban includes 13 countries.
Biden has pledged to immediately end the ban. Since the ban was issued through executive orders, policy experts say undoing Trump’s actions could easily be done.
Separated Immigrant Children
When Trump implemented a “zero tolerance” policy for all migrants – including families – who crossed U.S. borders, thousands of children were separated from their parents as a result. Biden’s transition team said they will create a federal task force to reunify separated migrant children.