President Joe Biden kicked off his term by making big and immediate changes. He became president at noon. By 6 p.m. he had issued a pile of executive orders, six of which were crucial changes in immigration policy and practice.
How could he do this? Well, Trump had used every trick in the book to oppose immigration and make life miserable for immigrants. His actions included presidential proclamations, executive orders, federal regulations, policy directives to executive departments, and more.
Some of those are easier to reverse than others. For example, a federal regulation that has been proposed, adopted, published, and implemented is going to take time to reverse. On the other hand, a presidential proclamation can be reversed much more easily.
Biden did a lot on his first day. Usually, presidents just parade and go to inaugural balls, getting down to work on the second day. Biden went back to the Oval Office in the afternoon and started signing orders. He did not (and could not) make everything better, but he did a lot. Here’s a list of important changes he made for immigrants:
“The United States was built on a foundation of religious freedom and tolerance, a principle enshrined in the United States Constitution. Nevertheless, the previous administration enacted a number of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States — first from primarily Muslim countries, and later, from largely African countries. 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.”
“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.”
“Both the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and section 2a(a) of title 2, United States Code, require that the apportionment base of each State, for the purpose of the reapportionment of Representatives following the decennial census, include all persons whose usual place of residence was in that State as of the designated census date, regardless of their immigration status. These laws, affirmed by the executive branch’s longstanding historical practice, do not permit the exclusion of inhabitants of the United States from the apportionment base solely on the ground that they lack a lawful immigration status. Reflecting this legal background, and the values of equal representation and respect that the Constitution and laws embody, it is the policy of the United States that reapportionment shall be based on the total number of persons residing in the several States, without regard for immigration status.”
“DACA and associated regulations permit eligible individuals who pass a background check to request temporary relief from removal and to apply for temporary work permits. DACA reflects a judgment that these immigrants should not be a priority for removal based on humanitarian concerns and other considerations, and that work authorization will enable them to support themselves and their families, and to contribute to our economy, while they remain….
“The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.”
“Providing work authorization to these Liberians, for whom we have long authorized TPS or DED in the United States, while they initiate and complete the LRIF status-adjustment process, honors the historic close relationship between the United States and Liberia and is in the foreign policy interests of the United States. I urge all Liberian DED beneficiaries to apply promptly for adjustment of status, and I direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to review the LRIF application procedures administered by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to ensure that they facilitate ease of application and timely adjudication.”
“Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats. But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.”
In addition to these presidential actions, the Department of Homeland Security followed the direction of President Biden and issued a 100-day moratorium on almost all deportations and orders for changed priorities on enforcement or arrests.
“This memorandum directs Department of Homeland Security components to conduct a review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement. It also sets interim policies during the course of that review, including a 100-day pause on certain removals to enable focusing the Department’s resources where they are most needed. The United States faces significant operational challenges at the southwest border as it is confronting the most serious global public health crisis in a century. In light of those unique circumstances, the Department must surge resources to the border in order to ensure safe, legal and orderly processing, to rebuild fair and effective asylum procedures that respect human rights and due process, to adopt appropriate public health guidelines and protocols, and to prioritize responding to threats to national security, public safety, and border security….
“In the interim and pending completion of that review, the Department’s priorities shall be:
1. National security. Individuals who have engaged in or are suspected of terrorism or espionage, or whose apprehension, arrest and/or custody is otherwise necessary to protect the national security of the United States.
2. Border security. Individuals apprehended at the border or ports of entry while attempting to unlawfully enter the United States on or after November 1, 2020, or who were not physically present in the United States before November 1, 2020.
3. Public safety. Individuals incarcerated within federal, state, and local prisons and jails released on or after the issuance of this memorandum who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony,” as that term is defined in section 101(a) (43) of the Immigration and Nationality Act at the time of conviction, and are determined to pose a threat to public safety.
“These priorities shall apply not only to the decision to issue, serve, file, or cancel a Notice to Appear, but also to a broad range of other discretionary enforcement decisions, including deciding: whom to stop, question, and arrest; whom to detain or release; whether to settle, dismiss, appeal, or join in a motion on a case; and whether to grant deferred action or parole. ”
There’s more to be done, there’s more of the story to be told, but all in all, that’s one hell of a Day One.