In the first six days of his presidency, President Biden has issued seven executive orders directly related to U.S. immigration, as well as other actions paving the way for additional changes to come, signaling the importance of these issues to the new administration.
Travel Ban from Predominantly Muslim Countries
- On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to the United States. This proclamation reversed an executive order issued by President Trump that prevented certain individuals from entering the United States. The executive order first targeted individuals from primarily Muslim countries, and later, following litigation, individuals from largely African countries.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
- On January 20, 2021, President Biden reaffirmed Preserving and Fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This is a program from the Obama administration that shielded undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children from being deported.
U.S. Census and Undocumented Individuals
- On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census. This proclamation states that undocumented immigrants will be counted in the census, overturning President Trump’s attempt to exclude them during the 2020 census.
Protections for Liberians
- On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a memorandum Reinstating Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians. This memorandum blocks the deportation of Liberian refugees living in the United States, reinstating policies granted by the Bush and Obama administrations.
Immigration Deportation Prioritization
- On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities. This order revoked President Trump’s Executive Order 13768 of January 25, 2017, which was an order that eliminated most federal funding for sanctuary cities and states who sought to protect immigrant families.
U.S.-Mexican Border Wall
- On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a Proclamation on the Termination of Emergency with Respect to the Southern Border of the United States and Redirection of Funds Diverted to Border Wall Construction. This proclamation terminated the funding and construction of the wall at the U.S./Mexico border, citing the wasteful use of American taxpayer dollars.
Covid-19 Travel Restrictions
- On January 25, 2021, President Biden reinstated COVID-19 travel restrictions affecting non-U.S. citizens traveling from Brazil and much of Europe. The current travel restrictions apply to the 26 European countries that comprise the Schengen zone (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland), the UK, Ireland, Brazil, Iran, and China. Further, the Biden administration added a similar restriction on travel from South Africa, where a new COVID-19 strain has been identified. Non-U.S. citizens who have been physically present in any of the aforementioned countries within the 14 days prior to traveling to the U.S. will be prohibited from entering the U.S. unless an exception applies (including obtaining a National Interest Exception). Importantly, President Biden’s actions do not impact Presidential Proclamations 10014 and 10052 (suspending issuance of immigrant visas, and certain non-immigrant visas abroad), which remain in effect until March 31, 2021.
- On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order on Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel. While not strictly immigration-related, the order does direct various agencies to review the effectiveness of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s January 12, 2021, order mandating a negative COVID-19 test result, or acceptable “documentation of recovery,” for airline passengers traveling to the U.S., and leaves open the possibility of future “appropriate regulatory action” (such as additional testing or quarantine requirements for travelers). For more information on the details of this executive order, please refer to our previous blog post.
The above executive actions are in addition to a memorandum, issued on day one of the Biden administration, which suspends for 60 days, and requires further review of, all new and pending rules issued in the waning days of the Trump administration. This includes the new wage based H-1B selection process. Further, on January 20, 2021, by executive order, President Biden ordered the Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation, which revokes several executive orders issued by President Trump viewed as hindering the ability of executive departments and agencies to “use robust regulatory action to address national priorities,” including U.S. immigration. Both the memorandum and executive order signal that the Biden administration is just getting started on its attempts to reverse many Trump rules and policies, and introduce meaningful changes to the U.S. immigration system (many of which may require congressional approval).