What Immigrant Advocates Expect from President Biden on Day One


President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to reverse the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies from day one. Some of its proposals, such as creating a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, will require congressional approval. But others can be reached with a stroke of the pen through decrees.

The question is, which ones?

Local immigration advocates have their eyes set on three policies they say Biden can choose to implement immediately. There are over half a million undocumented immigrants to New York who could be affected.

Cancellation of travel ban

Biden’s team has previously said that on day one he will overturn Trump’s travel ban. It was originally created by decree in January 2017 and bans travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations, although it has been amended to include other types of nations. after lawsuits accused administration of discrimination.

In New York, people born in Yemen, Iran and Syria constitute the vast majority of residents with family members subject to the ban, according to the mayor’s office of immigration affairs.

“We have been the most affected compared to all the other countries subject to this ban,” said Abdul Mubarez, president of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, which organized a demonstration throughout the city in 2017.

With the United States Embassy in Yemen shutting down due to the civil war, Mubarez said relatives of Yemeni Americans had to travel to neighboring countries in order to have their visas processed and were then stuck abroad.

Mubarez has two nieces and a nephew who are US citizens now seeking to bring in their spouses and children. He said he hoped the process would become faster and fairer. He plans to bring his adult children to his home in Astoria to attend Biden’s inauguration.

“We are going to celebrate the fact that we finally have a president who understands that America is America.”

Those who were in favor of the ban says NPR he pressured other countries like Syria and Libya to tighten their own controls on travelers.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

President Trump has lost his fight to shut down DACA, former President Barack Obama’s 2012 program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. It has now been fully restored and first-time applicants are being screened for the first time in three years.

Because of this, local immigration advocates have said that an executive order from Biden to reinstate the program would be mostly ceremonial. But as government agencies need more guidance on how to implement an executive order, some hope the program could become more user-friendly.

“There will likely be more fee waivers,” said Cesar Vargas, a lawyer and former DACA beneficiary who later got a green card. Applying for DACA costs $ 495, which is a lot of money for undocumented migrants who are not legally allowed to work.

Vargas said there was also talk of extending the benefits of DACA, namely work authorization and protection against expulsion, from two years to three or four years. Biden’s candidate for head of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, will be under close scrutiny in the coming weeks. In his legislative plan, the new president also foresees give green cards quickly beneficiaries of DACA and those on Temporary Protected Status, a program that allows people from certain countries in crisis to live and work in the United States for a limited period of time.


President Trump used his executive powers to dramatically expand application priorities to include virtually all undocumented immigrants and those accused of crimes. As a result, New York City has seen a dramatic increase in the number of immigrants arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement – many for civil and non-criminal offenses.

Immigration advocates want Biden to use those same executive powers to reverse Trump’s priorities, and the new president has suggested a moratorium on certain evictions, or at least those who do not involve the criminals.

It remains to be seen what that will look like. But local advocates are calling for a temporary suspension of all evictions.

Alina Das, an immigration professor at New York University Law School and co-director of the school’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, said a hiatus “will give the new administration time to consider all the cruel, inhumane and unjust policies that have been deployed over the past four years. “

She said immigrants accused of crimes are always innocent until proven guilty, and those who have been convicted have served their time or are still serving them. She argued that a moratorium on deportations is also necessary because the criminal justice system has a disproportionate impact on blacks and Latinos, meaning that “you are going to see the same racial bias in deportees” .

Sarah Deri Oshiro, general manager of immigration at Bronx Defenders, said any moratorium should include the release of detained immigrants. She said it is “abysmal” from a public health perspective to keep people in jail when facing civil immigration proceedings.

That’s why Perry McAninch, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Society, which also represents detained immigrants, said any moratorium on deportations should also apply to the execution. Otherwise, he said, “those currently detained by ICE or arrested by ICE during the moratorium period will not receive relief and will believe in dangerous prison conditions.”

Whatever executive actions Biden takes in the next few days, these are only the beginning of a broader overhaul of immigration. And Republican-led states could challenge them just as Democratic-led states like New York City sued Trump’s immigration decrees. That’s why the new president will need congressional support to implement most of his agenda, a difficult challenge with only the weakest majorities in the Senate.


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