With a new administration, many questions remain in terms of what the plan is for immigrants and what legislature will be brought forward.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, provides an overview of the Biden immigration agenda: “I just want to start by saying we have just been through four years of cruelty and chaos brought by the Trump administration. Now we have a senate that is slightly more pro-immigrant and progressive, so we can expect some alignment on two main goals.
“The first is to build a fair, humane and functional immigration system. What we have now is not working. The second, and the most difficult, is to pass transformative legislation that will put millions of undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship. So far, the Biden administration has announced ended the Muslim and African travel bans and ordered the reinstatement of DACA for immigrant youth. They’ve ended border wall construction. And are trying to obtain a one-hundred-day moratorium on deportations”, said Frank Sharry.
Internationally recognized immigration attorney, Cyrus Mehta, addresses Biden’s plans for the employer aspect: “The current immigration law is woefully inadequate. There are inadequate green cards assigned in the employment-based categories including skilled and investor categories. With respect to legal immigration, especially skilled immigrants, the current law is inadequate. For example, if someone has been sponsored on an H1 visa, and the employer files a green card on behalf of the person, it will take several decades before this person gets a green card. The system is totally wrong if a skilled worker cannot get residence. The back log goes back decades for some countries.”
Patrice Lawrence, co-director of UndocuBlack, discusses the impact of Biden’s plan on Black immigrants: “In the Biden plan, which hasn’t been introduced yet to Congress, but that we got the memo for, includes increases in diversity visas from 55,000 to 80,000. This is important because this is one of the programs that is normally axed out first, when we talk about changing immigration at all. It was debated in 2018 when we were talking about DACA. Over 60% of people who get the diversity visa are from African countries, and it is one of the only ways they are able to come to the United States. We anticipate that there will be a change in terms of taking out Trump’s ruling on passport rule, which bans 8 million people from applying for the visa, 5 million of which are from African countries.”
Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration law center elaborates: “Because of the public charge rule and other anti-immigrant agendas, there has been a lot of anxiety and confusion among immigrant communities. The Biden administration will announce that they will be undoing the public charge rule and will also launch a robust education campaign in partnership with trusted community groups. We have immigrants who are unsure and fearful of getting COVID-19 testing and treatment. And that is a problem. They should be able to seek the healthcare that they need.”
John C. Yang, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), a civil rights organization based in Washington DC adds: “I want to talk about why this is important for Asian Americans because a lot of times when you talk about immigration, Asian American’s aren’t included in the narrative. If you look a current immigration patterns, close to 40% of all immigrants coming to the US today come from Asia. For that reason, AAJC is excited for the pathway to citizenship offered by the US Citizenship Act. Not only is it an immigration bill, but it is a racial justice bill. The US citizenship Act, as it relates to families, does the following: adds green cards to clear the long backlogs that for some countries go back 20 years and allows families to be reunited here by mixed status families being able to sponsor their family members. All of these different policies do affect Asian Americans in a significant way. Most immigrants come here to find a better life and they do not come with political power or wealth. They want to contribute to making the US a better place.”
In the coming months, we will see what policy changes come about from the Biden administration and how they affect those in the most vulnerable communities.