With so much change and uncertainty in our day to day lives, we enjoyed hearing perspectives from the American Immigration Council’s most recent webinar, “The state on immigration after the 2020 election.”
There were 900 changes to the U.S. immigration system over the past four years. The future may be different – but at the very least, we’ve grown accustomed to adapting and finding solutions in a fast-moving environment.
Some positive news from our viewpoint: the incoming Biden-Harris administration offers an opportunity to implement a powerful new vision for immigration in the U.S. There are likely to be hundreds of Trump administration regulations and policies to be reversed; this may create a new type of learning curve for businesses and foreign born workers, but it will be a welcome one.
During the first 100 days of the Biden Administration, the initial attention will need to be on the COVID-19 crisis. We should, however, also expect significant immigration-related executive action.
Early progress should be around issues including:
- Ending Presidential Proclamations restricting travel of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants to the U.S.
- Beginning the process of rescinding H-1B specialty occupation and prevailing wage regulations
- Improving USCIS processing times by shifting resources away from things like unwarranted fraud investigations and denaturalization efforts
- Implementing premium processing for more petitions/applications, which Congress has recently provided for
- Increasing processing at U.S. consulates abroad, to the extent possible during the pandemic
Broader legislation will face significant challenges if the Senate remains Republican-controlled. Even so, we can expect that some efforts will be launched in 2021. There is a good chance for a reform bill to be proposed, for example, that includes a path to citizenship for, at a minimum, Dreamers (DACA-recipients) and TPS. There is also a strong possibility for a bill that ends zero tolerance and family separation while providing possible pathways to legal status for those who were affected by this policy.
It will be fairly easy for the Biden administration to undo administrative policies, memos, or presidential proclamations. Longer term, it will be more difficult and time consuming to rescind agency regulations such as the new H-1B rules or public charge rule, if those are not determined to be unlawful through litigation. If litigation falters, attempts to rescind these and other regulations have to be carried out in the right way, with sufficient justification presented.
There is still much to understand as we wait for the new Administration to change the immigration climate. We know the intent is to revert to an easier regulatory environment that invites talent from abroad into the corporate U.S. – and that will be a change we will all welcome.