By Maggie Cheng, JD, Staff Attorney (Asylum) and Malou Chávez, JD, Deputy Director, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
It is inevitable not to feel optimistic and yearn for long-awaited positive changes that would impact our immigrant communities. For decades, immigrant communities have been put on the back burner, and protection for the more than 11 million undocumented individuals in the U.S. has not been a priority for the country. Family separation, long waiting lists for family reunifications, limited protections for immigrant victims, children and youth with dreams in limbo, zero avenues to legal for farmworkers, the fear that at any moment a person will be arrested for lack of papers, and many more difficult situations are today’s reality.
Over the last four years, the Trump administration has implemented over 1000 immigration legal actions that have overall made things more difficult for immigrants. The new presidential administration has brought a hope not seen for years. Below are some highlights of the changes under the Biden-Harris administration and a look at what is (hopefully) to come.
The Biden-Harris administration has issued several executive actions that:
- Pause construction of the southern border wall;
- Preserve DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for young immigrants, or “Dreamers,” who came to the U.S. as children;
- Reaffirm end of family separation policies that cruelly separated parents and children as a means for deterrence and form a task force to reunite families;
- End travel bans against immigrants from African and predominately Muslim countries;
- Review and aim to remove asylum bans and other obstacles that limit asylum in the U.S.;
- Seek to rebuild the refugee resettlement program by revoking several Trump-era restrictions, expanding eligibility, and increasing the annual cap on refugees;
- Extend temporary protection from deportation for nationals of certain countries;
- Pledge to reset immigration enforcement priorities and revoke Trump administration’s executive orders on interior immigration enforcement; and
- Revoke certain Trump-era barriers to obtaining residency/citizenship and propose a legalization program with a pathway to citizenship.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and EthnoMed have partnered in the past to educate readers on recent changes to asylum and immigration law. Now we have updates on new rules, regulations, legal challenges, and changes in policy. There is a great deal of work to do to help America make good on her promises. We resolve ourselves to this joint effort.