President Joe Biden made a lot of promises about immigration reform during his campaign including a pledge to create a task force to reunite families that were separated at the border during former president Donald Trump’s administration “on his first day as president.” More than a week after his inauguration, that has yet to happen, but President Biden has still made some positive moves toward impactful immigration reform during his first days in office.
A lot of information has been thrown out there, and it’s a bit confusing figuring out what parts of Biden’s immigration reform plan have actually happened so far and what’s still in the works, so we took some time to sort it all out.
The Moratorium on Deportation
On his first day in office, President Biden announced a 100-day moratorium on deportations in order to review “policies and practices.” However, according to NPR, a Texas attorney Ken Paxton has since temporarily halted the moratorium via temporary restraining order against the Department of Homeland Security, claiming it would be “harmful.” Judge Drew Tipton agreed and issued a 14-day restraining order, effectively blocking Biden’s moratorium for the time being.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021
On inauguration day, Biden officially announced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which outlines his administration’s immigration reform plan. The act will provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, provides more spending for border-security technology and for uncovering and tackling the root causes of immigration at the Central America border. The bill also covers increased hiring needs in immigration courts, support for asylum seekers, and provisions that ensure families are kept together.
Preserving and Protecting DACA
On the same day, President Biden also issued a memorandum with the intention of “preserving and fortifying” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was created under President Obama, when Biden held the office of Vice President. The intent is essentially to keep DACA active until legislation is passed that will allow Dreamers to apply for permanent legal status.
Immigration Enforcement Revisions
This is a big one. The president has revoked an order that was issued by the Trump administration in 2017 that essentially resulted in mass deportations. “The policy of my Administration is to protect national and border security, address the humanitarian challenges at the southern border, and ensure public health and safety. We must also adhere to due process of law as we safeguard the dignity and well-being of all families and communities. My Administration will reset the policies and practices for enforcing civil immigration laws to align enforcement with these values and priorities,” asserts President Biden’s executive order. That means all of those ICE raids that occurred during Trump’s administration may be a thing of the past.
Border Wall Construction Stopped
Biden’s administration has ordered that all construction on the U.S.’s southwest border with Mexico be stopped. The wall was ordered by Donald Trump, but never completed. Border wall contractors were informed early this week that all work on the wall would need to stop by January 27 in order for them to be in compliance with an executive order the president issued on January 20.
Protecting Asylum Seekers
Under President Trump, many asylum seekers were sent to Mexico via the Migrant Protection Protocols program also known as “Remain in Mexico”. Biden has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to suspend all new enrollments to MPP, which means that asylum seekers will be permitted to stay where they are in the U.S. until their asylum proceedings are complete and a ruling on their status is made—a process that often takes years.
Stopping the ‘Muslim Ban’
In an incredibly impactful measure, Biden has also revoked the Trump-imposed travel ban against individuals from a number of predominantly Muslim countries. The ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2018. Biden’s executive order instructs U.S. embassies and consulates to proceed with processing Visa applications from those countries and to provide status reports within 45 days. “Those actions are a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all,” Biden’s executive order said.
‘Noncitizens’ Not ‘Aliens’
As a part of his immigration reform plan, President Biden has also proposed that the term “alien” be removed from immigration laws and replaced with the less “dehumanizing” term “noncitizen.” Texas congressman Joaquin Castro has publicly petitioned for such a change in the past. Although this is a largely symbolic change, it does demonstrate a welcome level of respect and care from Biden which to many feels like a departure from the Trump administration.