President-Elect Joe Biden will inherit an immigration landscape that has changed dramatically in the four years of the Trump Administration. Under its “Buy American, Hire American” directive, the Trump Administration changed the way federal immigration laws are interpreted and enforced, leading to increased scrutiny of every conceivable aspect of legal immigration, from obtaining U.S. citizenship to coming the to the United States as a foreign student. In this series, we will look closely at how different facets of immigration could be impacted under President-Elect Biden’s Administration.
The Trump Administration’s 2019 immigration reform plan left few areas of legal immigration untouched. His proposals would have drastically impacted immigration processes that have been bedrock to America’s immigrant history. By capping green cards issued each year and prioritizing work and merit-based applications, President Trump would have eliminated family-sponsored green cards for parents, adult children and siblings of U.S. citizens – the very processes that allowed First Lady Melania Trump’s parents to gain U.S. citizenship in 2018. Had President Trump been elected to a second term, immigration reform would have been a top priority. President-Elect Joe Biden’s immigration platform marks a change in tone and tenor, ushering in policies for family-based immigration that are more closely aligned to past Presidential administrations and the US’ strong immigration history of family unification.
Support of family-based immigration upholds America’s long immigrant tradition
In his immigration platform, President-Elect Joe Biden explicitly outlines reinstating support of family-based immigration, stating, “As President, Biden will support family-based immigration by preserving family unification as a foundation of our immigration system; by allowing any approved applicant to receive a temporary non-immigrant visa until the permanent visa is processed; and by supporting legislation that treats the spouse and children of green card holders as the immediate relatives they are, exempting them from caps, and allowing parents to bring their minor children with them at the time they immigrate.”
While President Trump looked to reform family-based immigration to eliminate priority for parents and siblings of U.S. citizens, President-Elect Biden’s platform emphasizes the importance of keeping families together. When foreign-born U.S. citizens look to bring parents to the United States, it is not for nefarious purposes – it is to reunite grandchildren with their grandparents and to uphold familial bonds and traditions. Foreign-born U.S. citizens can breathe a sigh of relief as they look to the future and the future of their families in the United States.
Rescission of President Trump’s travel ban will open family immigration for entire immigrant communities
Commonly referred to as the “Muslim Ban,” President Trump’s 2017 travel ban impacted citizens of Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Since the travel ban, immigrant and nonimmigrant visa approvals from those countries have collapsed – the Washington Post reported that immigrant visas from the Muslim-majority countries dropped from 1,419 in October 2017 to 69 in January 2018.
In Maine, the travel ban has had a negative impact on immigrant populations – stranding the spouses and dependent children of foreign-born, U.S. citizens. These citizens are valued members of their community, working in-demand jobs such as home and assisted living nursing care and contributing to their local economy. President Biden’s promise to rescind the ban will be a welcome relief to immigrant U.S. citizens, reuniting families and strengthening communities.
Reversal of Public Charge Rule will simplify family-based immigration process
The Trump Administration’s Public Charge Rule took effect in February 2020, and changed how officers determine inadmissibility for adjustment of status applicants and those seeking an extension or change of their current nonimmigrant status. The ruling put an additional and often unnecessary burden on marriage-based adjustment of status petitions. Not only did marriage-based petitioners need to prove the merits of their relationship, they had to put their relationship under the increased scrutiny of whether an individual would become a “public charge.”
President-Elect Biden’s platform calls for reversal of the Public Charge rule, stating, “discriminatory criteria undermines America’s character as land of opportunity that is open and welcoming to all, not just the wealthy.” An end to the rule will mean marriage-based petitions will return to being adjudicated based on proof of a real relationship, a welcome change for couples who are hoping to build their lives together in the United States.
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