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Biden Administration Hits the Ground Running with Executive Actions

In its first week of office, the Biden Administration has acted swiftly using executive actions to undo some of the drastic immigration policies from the last four years and to strike a new, more welcoming approach to immigrants. Here are some of the highlights of these executive actions:

  1. End to discriminatory entry bans. Reaffirming this country’s commitment to upholding religious freedom and tolerance, this proclamation revokes the discriminatory bans preventing the entry of certain individuals - mainly from Muslim countries and African countries – into the United States. It further directs the Secretary of State to resume visa processing for individuals affected by the bans and to develop a plan for applicants whose visas were refused to receive reconsideration of their denied applications. Screening and vetting procedures, including the use of social media identifiers, will also be reviewed and reassessed to determine their effectiveness.
  1. Review of immigration enforcement policies and priorities. The President has directed the Chief of Staff to undertake a comprehensive review and provide recommendations within 100 days for revision of immigration enforcement policies and priorities that aligns with the current administration’s values. Acknowledging that the United States lacks the resources to deport all persons without lawful status, and emphasizing the important role of prosecutorial discretion, the enumerated interim priorities for civil enforcement are national security, border security, and public safety. During this 100-day period DHS will not remove noncitizens with final removal orders who do not present a national security concern, who were physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020, who have not made a knowing waiver of their right to remain in the United States, or whose removal is not required by law. In contrast to the previous policy that treated everyone the same for purposes of removal, this memorandum is a first step toward restoring a system of priorities based on available resources and use of prosecutorial discretion.
  1. Preservation and fortification of DACA. Former President Trump’s efforts to reverse Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was blocked in the courts. This memorandum directs the DHS Secretary and the U.S. Attorney General to “preserve and fortify DACA.” Those who meet DACA’s guidelines should no longer have to worry about DACA’s future and can look forward to the possibility of a permanent legislative solution providing a pathway to citizenship.
  1. Reinstatement of Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberian Nationals. This directive to the DHS Secretary provides that, with certain exceptions, Liberian nationals who were under a grant of DED as of January 10, 2021 will have their removal deferred and their employment authorization continued through June 30, 2022.
  1. End to construction of the wall along the Southern Border. With this executive action, work on the border wall separating Mexico and the United States will stop, and funds will no longer be diverted to pay for wall construction. President Biden’s executive order revokes former President Trump’s Proclamation 9844 which had declared an emergency justification for spending taxpayer dollars on construction of the southern wall.
  1. Counting every resident in the census regardless of immigration status. In a process referred to as apportionment, the federal government conducts a census every 10 years to count the inhabitants of each State in order to determine each State’s share of U.S. representatives. The U.S. constitution requires that all inhabitants of a State be counted to guarantee proportional representation and a fair system of government. This executive action revokes the former President’s memorandum that sought to exclude the undocumented from the census, and further directs the Secretary of Commerce to ensure that census data includes the entire population, regardless of immigration status.
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