What does Trump’s defeat mean for immigration?
Since Trump did NOT win the election – the goal of this administration now is to make things as difficult as possible for the next President to reverse the changes that were made.
Here’s a rundown of what they had done since the election:
Change in citizenship test
They’re putting a new, longer, and more difficult, citizenship test in place.
More discretion for officials
They gave federal officials more discretion in making decisions on immigration applications with a list of positive and negative factors that many in the immigration community see as leading to more denials. This policy update also changed the goal of USCIS from family unification to a safety and enforcement orientation.
They’ve proposed limiting work permits for immigrants awaiting deportation.
USCIS is expanding the requirement for in-person interviews of family members of asylum seekers, meaning those who filed for a status under form I-730.
This will be implemented in phases and the first phase will be for those applicants and their derivative beneficiaries who live inside the U.S.
Visa bond program
A visa bond program will be starting on December 24, 2020 and ending on June 24, 2021. This is a pilot program coordinated between the Department of State and DHS.
What this Visa Bond Pilot Program will require is that individuals who are trying to get a B1/B2 visa coming from countries with a very high overstay rate will need to post a bond in order to obtain a visa.
The visa bonds will be $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 US Dollars as a condition of US Visa issuance.
There are 23 countries named in the document, which you can find here. Most are African countries, with some in the Middle East.
What did Immigration look like under Obama?
Keep in mind that President Obama had a very strict anti-illegal immigration policy. He was dubbed the “deporter in chief” by some immigration advocacy groups. However he focused on deporting illegal immigrants NOT reducing or ending ALL immigration. Our law firm is 100% for legal immigration as well.
The Trump administration has not made the same efforts to reduce illegal immigration as Obama but has focused must of its efforts on reducing legal immigration.
How Trump reduced legal immigration
The person who has been spearheading all the many immigration changes in the Trump administration is the “advisor” Stephen Miller. A few of the notable items put into practice include:
- Muslim travel ban
- The 5 miles of border wall that has been built since Trump was inaugurated at a cost of billions of dollars
- Using ICE to terrorize undocumented workers
To add to this, here are other practices done under Trump’s administration:
Increased denial of skilled workers
Highly skilled worker applicants went from a denial rate of 6% to over 30%.
Increased denial from certain countries
Many immigrants from countries that Trump doesn’t like have been denied entry.
Drop in refugee and asylum seekers
The number of refugees and asylum seekers allowed into the US annually are at an all-time low. It also instituted a “Remain in Mexico” provision that slowed the asylum process to such an extent that many applicants abandoned their applications totally.
The Wealth Test
The “wealth test” they tried to pass was struck down by the Courts.
Separation of families
No one can forget the family separations that as of November 2020 STILL had nearly 700 children separated from their parents. And they cannot find the parents.
Frankly, this administration may be known as the “Administration of Shame” with how they have treated not only immigrants but the entire US population in terms of their lack of COVID response.
How would immigration look like under Biden?
President Elect Biden has talked about his first 100 days plan for different areas of US policy. Part of that was to have some immigration reform. He has said he would try to create an amnesty program for 11 million people who are in the US without a legal status.
What does amnesty mean?
Amnesty is a pardon. That means you have done something wrong and it is forgiven, and you don’t need to go to jail or pay a fine, or if an immigrant, be deported and banned from the US. Often, a pardon is used by the U.S. President for people who have committed a crime.
You’ve probably heard about President Trump pardoning Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty TWICE to lying to the FBI. Recently, there have been suggestions that he will pardon himself, his kids, and some close associates in advance of them being charged with a crime, before he leaves office.
Amnesty for immigrants would mean that the government would waive the fact that an immigrant has violated US immigration policy. Waive means to set it aside or ignore it.
So, if a person had lived in the US for years without a legal status, that would be forgiven. Or, if they had worked without authorization, that wouldn’t stop them from getting a legal status. It usually means that even if they used fake documents to work, they can still get legal status.
President Biden said recently “I made a committee, in the first 100 days, I will send an immigration bill to the United States Senate with a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people in America.”
Let’s break down that statement.
The 11 million he mentions are people already living in the US. He is not saying he will open the borders and allow anyone in. In 2016 there were an estimated 10.6 million people in the US who didn’t have a legal status. This includes DACA recipients who are individuals who were brought to the US as children, and holders of Temporary Protected Status.
We know that around 6 million of these people pay federal, state, and local taxes. In total they pay over $13 billion in federal taxes yearly. They also pay about $12 billion annually to Social Security.
Certainly there will still be requirements for people to be approved like they can’t have committed a violent crime.
This will need to go through the proper process to enact new laws which means through the Senate. This may be the biggest sticking point. If the Senate continues to be controlled by the Republicans, they may continue to refuse to pass any immigration reform bills as they have for the past almost 12 years
Amnesty for immigrants is not new. President Reagan was able to get a bill through Congress in 1986 called the Immigration and Reform Act. This bill allowed nearly 3 million immigrants without a legal status to obtain a Green Card.
In the 1990s there were other amnesty bills passed that allowed for smaller groups of people to gain a legal status. One was for Section 245(I) and some for individuals from different countries. In the 2000s the LIFE Act was passed to help with the backlog.
During the Obama Administration Congress refused to work to pass any immigration reform and, as we all know, President Obama signed DACA into effect through an executive order because he couldn’t get Congress to act.
However, DACA doesn’t give a legal status to those who hold it, it is only deferring deportation for them. While President Obama wanted to keep families together, courts struck down the provisions he had for the parents of DACA recipients.
Regarding DACA, there was recently a decision that allows new applications to be filed. The Judge removed the limitations for Advance Parole and extended the work authorization back to two years.
If you qualify for DACA and haven’t applied yet, now you can! If you have DACA and don’t have legal entry, file for Advance Parole now to be able to get a green card in the future. Call us for more information.
USCIS has a huge backlog of cases. For some, the wait time can be for decades. USCIS has said they are out of money and anticipate they will run out again. None of us know what is going to happen with COVID. We have very promising results with the vaccines, but we also know that viruses mutate and things could change quickly.
I think everyone in the immigration community would heave a huge sigh of relief if Congress would work with President Elect Biden to pass immigration reform. This may include an amnesty bill to allow those who are living in the US without a legal status, and meet certain criteria, to be able to remain here legally. It will be interesting to see how this plays out moving forward.
We won’t know until after January who will lead the Senate. There is an election in Georgia that could help it gain a Democratic majority. There has been some discussion that if the Republicans and McConnell stay in power, they will do everything they can to block anything the Democrats and Biden want to do because they think that will help them in 2024.
We also don’t have any information as to what the amnesty relief will consist of. We have heard that those who want to take advantage of it will need to pay any taxes owed and pass a background check.
President Biden has said that he will have a 100-day moratorium on removals at the start of his term. He also will move to deport anyone with felonies after that.
As we find out more about this, or other immigration changes President Elect Biden proposes to make, we’ll be sure to let you know.
If you need an immigration lawyer, call our office. If we can’t help you, we won’t take your money. We can’t help you if you don’t call us. Contact us today through Andres Mejer Law or call us at 888-421-9942.