[Article written by Benjamin Hu, Esq. as Of Counsel to the Ganey Law Group]
President Biden began his term with a clear repudiation of his predecessor’s policies, signing numerous Executive Orders and Proclamations on Inauguration Day to reverse or suspend Trump-era directives. Specific to U.S. immigration law, Biden issued five key pieces of executive action:
▪ Ending the Muslim and Africa “Travel Bans”. A series of Trump-era Executive Orders and Proclamations prevented entry to the U.S. from primarily Muslim and African countries. The Biden administration has reversed these as inconsistent with American values of nondiscrimination on religion and race.
▪ Reinstating the DACA program. This Obama-era policy allowed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (), providing relief from removal (formerly known as “deportation”) to those foreigners whose unlawful arrival in the U.S. occurred in childhood. It allowed a path to lawful work permits, both to support their families and to contribute to the U.S. economy. The prior administration attempted to terminate this program in a move that drew humanitarian condemnation, and which the U.S. Supreme Court deemed a procedural violation in a 2020-06 opinion.
▪ Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians. Under the Bush and Obama administrations, Liberian citizens who fled the Liberian civil war could remain in the U.S. without breaking the law. Later policies afforded a path to Green Card residency and work permits. After a mixture of slow Congressional lawmaking and the Trump administration’s decision not to extend the DED status for Liberia, the Biden administration extended the relief from removals to 2022-06-30, and also extended work permits for such individuals for the same duration.
▪ Terminating the State of Emergency on the southern border and redirecting border wall funds. Biden ended the state of emergency as declared by Trump in Proclamation 9844, freezing further construction of the border wall, and directed a general review of funding for the project.
▪ Ending the use of withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities”. Biden revoked Trump’s Executive Order 13768, which allowed for withholding of federal funds from state and local authorities that declined to enforce Trump’s anti-foreigner policies with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Such policies included measures aiming to detain or remove foreigners after their arrest by a local enforcement body or after court hearings by local judiciaries.
Late on Inauguration Day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also declared a 100-day moratorium on certain removals, redirecting funds to resume orderly border processing at the southern border and establish asylum procedures, while prioritizing COVID-19 health safety. The moratorium applies to all pending removal cases, except: 1) those with a finding of terrorism or espionage; 2) those not physically present in the U.S. prior to 2020-11-01; 3) those who have voluntarily waived their rights to remain in the U.S.; and 4) those determined on a case-by-case basis by ICE.