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Biden Administration Partially Lifts Green Card Ban

Biden Administration Partially Lifts Green Card Ban
Written by Taher Kameli & Chathan Vemuri

 

This week, a major Trump-era immigration ban has been considerably rescinded by executive order.[1] On Wednesday 24th, 2021, the Biden administration lifted the Trump administration’s immigrant visa ban for many green card applicants.[2] The ban was originally imposed on April 2020, under an order known as Presidential Proclamation 100014[3], and was justified as being necessary to protect American workers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.[4]  Under the ban, the Trump administration froze the issuing of green cards for new immigrants and stopped temporary work visas for skilled workers, managers and au pairs in different visa categories such as the  H-1B, H-4, H-2B, L-1 and J visas.[5] According to former President Trump, this was done to safeguard the American labor market during the pandemic and protect American jobs for American workers.[6] As a result, according to the Migration Policy Institute, approximately 26,000 people per month were prevented from obtaining green cards since the ban went up in April of 2020.[7]

 

President Biden has overturned this ban via executive order, criticizing the ban because it “[did] not advance the interests of the United States.”[8] He attacked the ban as harming US interests in terms of separating families in the US from those barred under the visa ban, harming American industries requiring work skills and talent from other countries and excluding individuals who otherwise received visas through the Diversity Visa Lottery for Fiscal Year 2020.[9] Due to President Biden’s lifting of the ban for many visas, “family members of US citizens and green card holders will now be able to immigrate to the US.”[10] Similarly, individuals selected for visas via the diversity visa lottery (“which allows the US to accept 55,000 immigrants annually from countries with historically low levels of immigration”) will also be able to immigrate to the US.[11]

 

However, Biden’s rescission of Trump’s immigrant visa ban on the issuing of green cards is only partial.[12] Foreign workers applying for temporary visas are still largely restricted from entering the United States until March 31 of 2021, when the existing ban is set to expire, unless if the President chooses to renew the ban.[13] This would include applicants for the H-1B visa (subject of many prior discussions on this blog) the spouses of these H-1B applicants who are applying for H-4 visas as their dependents.[14] Also banned are foreigners working for multinational companies transferring to US offices through L visas and some academics and people involved in cultural and work exchanges on J-1 visas.[15] These restrictions do nothing to help American workers in industries that generally hire foreign workers and they also do not affect the bulk of layoffs which happen to be in industries that do not employ large numbers of foreign workers.[16] Taking this reality into consideration, it is surprising that a Biden administration intent on distinguishing itself on the issue of immigration from the exclusivist policies of its predecessor would still take its time to keep these visa restrictions, especially given that President Biden himself criticized the visa ban for harming American industries requiring the skills of foreign workers. Indeed, many businesses have criticized the Biden administration for its seeming insistence on maintaining the work-visa ban, yet this latest round of abolished bans still doesn’t touch on that.[17]

 

Overall, Biden’s termination on Trump’s ban on many green card applicants is still welcome news inasmuch as it permits family members to join loved ones in the States (be they citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents) on green cards. It reflects another impressive blow to the Trump era’s distinctively chauvinistic legacy on immigration. Yet the fact that it still maintains key restrictions on visa issuance, such as for temporary workers, demonstrates how much further the Biden administration has to go to abolish the toxic legacy of the Trump administration’s immigration policies.

 

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[1] Biden Overturns Trump Ban on Many Green Card Applicants, Al Jazeera (Feb. 25, 2021) available at https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/2/25/biden-overturns-trump-era-ban-on-green-cards-and-work-permits

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Maglich, Marko C., Biden Revokes Immigrant Visa Ban, Nat’l Law Rev. (Feb. 25, 2021) available at https://www.natlawreview.com/article/biden-revokes-immigrant-visa-ban

[5] Romo, Vanessa, Biden Reopens Gateway for Green Cards and Work Visas, Reversing Trump COVID-19 Freeze, NPR (Feb. 24, 2021, 10:10 PM ET) available at https://www.npr.org/2021/02/24/971206197/biden-reopens-gateway-for-green-cards-work-visas-reversing-trump-covid-19-freeze

[6] Id.

[7] Narea, Nicole, Biden Just Partially Lifted Trump’s Pandemic-Related Restrictions on Legal Immigration, Vox (Feb. 24, 2021, 8:56 PM EST) available at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/2/24/22300182/biden-trump-immigration-ban-visa-green-card

[8] Rodriguez, Sabrina, and Carrasco, Maria, Biden Reverses Trump Visa Ban on Legal Immigration, Politico (Feb. 24, 2021, 7:38 PM EST) available at https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/24/biden-trump-ban-legal-immigration-471491

[9] Id.

[10] Narea, Nicole, Biden Just Partially Lifted Trump’s Pandemic-Related Restrictions on Legal Immigration, Vox (Feb. 24, 2021, 8:56 PM EST) available at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/2/24/22300182/biden-trump-immigration-ban-visa-green-card

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Hackman, Michelle, Businesses Worry About Biden’s Silence on Work Visa Ban, Wall St. J. (upd. Feb. 10, 2021, 11:14 AM ET) available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/businesses-worry-about-bidens-silence-on-work-visa-ban-11612965607