America Last: The Biden Administration’s First 100 Days (as of 4/30/21)
KEY IMMIGRATION-RELATED ACTIONS
Since President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, the first 100 days of a president’s term has been seen as a measure of their policy priorities and willingness to use invaluable political capital. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made many immigration-related campaign promises during the presidential campaign, including stopping border wall construction and ramping up legal immigration. The following is a tracker of key actions taken in the first 100 days of the Biden administration.
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PRESIDENT BIDEN TAKES EXECUTIVE ACTION
On his first day, President Biden took six executive actions reversing or rescinding executive orders and policies issued by President Trump.
Restrict interior immigration enforcement. Biden signed an Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities revoking President Trump’s 2017 executive order stating that no class of illegal alien was exempt from enforcement.
End the travel ban. Allows travel by individuals from nations widely considered to be terrorist havens. The Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States revokes President Trump’s travel ban.
Stop Border Wall Construction. In addition, Biden ended President Trump’s national emergency declaration and ordered a review of the legality of Trump's order.
Strengthen Protection for DACA. The president instructed DHS and the U.S. attorney general to preserve the program.
Require Census Count Illegal Aliens. Biden rescinded the Trump Administration's order to exclude illegal aliens from the Census count for the purpose of congressional seat apportionment. This means that states with higher illegal aliens populations will benefit from more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and receive more Electoral College votes at the expense of states with smaller populations of illegal aliens.
Reinstate Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians. A memorandum signed by Biden reinstitutes protections from deportation to Liberians.
- DHS announced it would suspend all new enrollments in the MPP program.
- Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske signed a memorandum implementing a 100-day halt on “certain removals to enable focusing the Department’s resources where they are most needed.”
- President Biden sends to Congress an immigration bill that greatly expands legal immigration, including guest worker programs, and provides amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens while eviscerating immigration enforcement. The $4 billion bill would refocus border security funds on giving financial assistance to Central America and expanding refugee resettlement opportunities.
- Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson officially rescinds the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" memorandum.
- The Senate confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas to be DHS secretary by a vote of 56-43.
- President Biden signs three executive orders, which will:
Create a Task Force to Reunite Migrant Children and Parents
The task force aims to reunite adults and unaccompanied minors separated at the southern border. It is unclear whether the Biden administration will require reunification to occur in the United States and whether amnesty will be granted.
Study Causes of Central American Migration and Legal Immigration Programs
This executive order directs DHS to “examine” the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, and directs other agencies to review the Trump administration’s asylum rules and agreements.
Promote Legal Immigration and Integration of New Americans
The order re-establishes a Task Force on New Americans, and also requires agencies to review any recent regulatory or policy changes made. Most importantly, the order rescinds the public charge rule which requires potential immigrants to demonstrate they will not need government assistance.
Executive Order on Resettling Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration
President Biden issued an Executive Order revoking executive actions taken by President Trump (Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program With Enhanced Vetting Capabilities, and Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement). The EO also directs certain agencies to take steps to improve the “efficacy, integrity, security, and transparency” of the United States Refugee Admissions Program and to address processing backlogs.
- President Biden signed an executive order pledging to increase the number of refugee admissions to 125,000 annually for Fiscal Year 2022, and to increase it further on an annual basis.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced plans to delay a final rule issued by the Trump administration to reform the H-1B visa lottery system.
- DHS will begin phase one of a program to process the estimated 25,000 migrants who were required to “remain in Mexico” under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).
On Dec. 1, 2020, USCIS implemented a revised version of the 2020 civics test for naturalization, but on February 22, the agency issued a policy alert which cut the required number of questions in half. It remains unclear the reasoning behind the decision since the new test had only been in use for several months. The test all but reverts to the prior version, last updated in 2008.
Biden Rescinds COVID-19 Immigrant Visa Pause
President Biden issued Proclamation 10149 revoking executive actions taken by President Trump (Proclamation 10014, section 1 of Proclamation 10052, and section 1 of Proclamation 10131) that suspended immigrant visas because they posed a “risk to the U.S. job market.” President Biden directly attached the reason for President Trump’s action – a pandemic resulting in record unemployment and a weakened economy – and claimed the pause did not “advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States.”
- USCIS Extends Flexibilities to Certain OPT Applicants
- The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that certain international students who had experienced delays in receiving the notices regarding applications for employment authorization for the controversial Optional Practical Training program would be given more time to file.
- DHS Secretary Mayorkas Announces Family Reunification Task Force
DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced that Michelle Brané former Women’s Refugee Commission staffer and frequent critic of U.S. detention policy would serve as executive director of the Biden administration’s task force. He also revealed families could reunite and relocate to the U.S., receive a range of benefits from tuition assistance to legal advice.
- DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas categorically denied the existence of a southern border crisis even as fiscal year 2021 apprehensions continue exceeding those in 2019, when the New York Times declared that the border was at a “breaking point.” Through the first three months of FY 2021, CBP apprehended over 296,000 individuals. During the same period in 2019, they apprehended only 184,000.
- HHS and DHS put in place of a 2018 Memorandum of Agreement “that promotes the safe and timely transfer” of unaccompanied minors to sponsors, many of whom are illegal themselves. The April 13, 2018, MOA between the agencies, which was terminated, allowed for information sharing between the agencies regarding the legality of sponsors.
- DHS Secretary Mayorkas appeared before the House Homeland Security Committee to deny that the situation at the Southwest border was a “crisis.” He stated it was “difficult” as he conceded that border agents likely will “encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.” Mayorkas told Congress he did not expect to need supplemental funding to handle the administration’s border crisis.
- The Department of Labor (DOL) chose to further delay a Trump administration rule which would lift raises for H-1B workers making it more likely employers would hire native workers. DOL’s Employment and Training Administration issued a notice proposing to make its effective date November 22, 2022.
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirms the Biden administration plans to send 4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada. She also refused to say when media would have access to shelters housing unaccompanied minors at the border.
- The U.S. House of Representatives passes H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, and H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. These two bills, if signed into law, would amnesty nearly 5 million illegal aliens. President Biden tweeted support for both bills, urging Congress to pass the legislation.
- President Biden tapped Vice President Harris to lead the administration’s “efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle” to help in “stemming” illegal migration to the southern border. In her capacity as U.S. senator and as a presidential nominee, Harris built a reputation as an anti-enforcement advocate and frequently demanded to closing of ICE facilities and detention centers.
- In his first press conference, President Biden refused to take accountability for the health, humanitarian and security crisis at the border. More importantly, he rejected bipartisan calls from Congress to take action to immediately address the crisis and focused on long-term foreign assistance that he championed in 2015 and that has, to date, failed to slow migration.
- The National Security Council announced that Ambassador Roberta Jacobson, the administration’s coordinator for the southwest border, traveled to Mexico on March 22 to “engage with Mexican government officials to develop an effective and humane plan of action to manage migration.” She and other NSC staff met with officials from the Foreign Ministry, the National Institute of Migration, as well as Mexico’s development agency, AMEXCID.
- The White House announced Seema Nanda is their nominee to serve as Solicitor General at the Department of Labor. Nanda previously directed the now named Office of Immigrant and Employee Rights Section of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration and also was CEO of the Democratic National Committee. In her role at Labor, she will have influence on rulemaking on issues related to immigrant labor.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki clarifies that Vice President Harris’ role will be addressing “the root causes” of the illegal alien surge at the southern border, not the actual crisis itself. There is “no update” on travel plans to the border, she added.
- DHS Secretary Mayorkas issued a written statement decrying the “inhumane way smugglers abuse children while profiting off parents’ desperation is criminal and morally reprehensible.” Mayorkas added that there is “no doubt that children are exceptionally vulnerable when placed in the hands of smugglers,” yet has not taken any policy or regulatory steps to reverse the actions enabling smugglers to engage in ongoing criminal actions.
- The State Department announced plans to resume processing H-1B and other guestworker visas, in concert with President Biden’s decision allowing President Trump’s pause on some temporary foreign workers to lapse. At the height of the COVID-19 economic and public health crisis in June 2020, President Trump issued Presidential Proclamation 10052.
- On December 31, 2020 extended until March 31, 2021 the June proclamation suspending the entry of certain immigrants and nonimmigrants into the United States in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. FAIR noted that Biden’s decision is a betrayal to the millions of Americans who remain without work during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
- Also on April 1, USCIS confirmed it would no longer automatically reject asylum or immigration benefit applications which had portions left “blank.” The “blank space” criteria was adopted in October 2019 as a means of combating immigration fraud.
- Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin requesting that Chairman Durbin hold hearings regarding the crisis at the border and to request the appearance of DHS Secretary Mayorkas. Both senators recently visited the southern border to get a first-hand look at the unfolding humanitarian and security crisis.
- White House Press Secretary Psaki confirmed in her press briefing that it is the “President’s view” that “the more people who are vaccinated, whether they’re undocumented or not, the safer we are as a country,” leaving open the possibility for the continued vaccination of illegal aliens while millions of American citizens remain unvaccinated.
- The Department of Labor published a request for public comment about determining the wage levels for H-1B visa holders and various other immigrants and non-immigrants. The full request is posted in the Federal Register.
- The Washington Times reported that DHS Secretary Mayorkas addressed a town hall of ICE employees and told them that the administration may continue construction of the border wall in order to fill in “gaps.”
- When asked about the report on April 7, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki avoided a direct answer, saying that “wall construction remains paused” because “a review in underway taking a look at the funds that had been allocated.” The review was intended to last 60 days but has exceeded that period.
- The State Department announced that Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zuniga would be in Guatemala and El Salvador from April 5-8 under the auspices of having “discussions with key stakeholders” on the Biden administration’s efforts to address “the root causes of migration and irregular migration in, from, and through the region and humanitarian efforts to expand access to protection for those in need. The Associated Press reported that El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele declined a meeting with Biden.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote to FBI Director Wray and CIA Director Burns with a request for a classified briefing regarding individuals on the Terrorism Watch List recently apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol. Once the meeting is scheduled, McCarthy plans to invite Vice President Harris and other congressional leaders.
- DHS Secretary Mayorkas traveled to El Paso, Texas to meet nongovernmental organizations and “stakeholders” and then to McAllen to visit with frontline DHS employees. His travels are closed to the press.
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data showing that the 168,195 migrants encountered along the Southwest border in March was a 20-year high. Those figures represent a 187.5 percent increase over March 2020 and also a nearly 100 percent increase in unaccompanied minors from February numbers.
- Media outlets reported that Robert Jacobson, the Biden administration’s border czar, would leave her post at the end of April. The White House insisted that Jacobson’s plans were always to leave after Biden’s 100 days.
- President Biden announced his intent to nominate key DHS officials, including Chris Magnus for Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Ur Jaddou for Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Magnus, currently Tucson, Arizona sheriff, and Jaddou, who worked for the pro-mass immigration America’s Voice, have long anti-enforcement records and radical approaches to border security.
- President Biden nominated Jonathan Meyer to be General Counsel and has a long history with Biden. He was DHS deputy general counsel and senior counselor in the Obama-Biden administration and was then-Sen. Biden’s counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
- Vice President Harris made remarks during a “virtual roundtable of experts on the Northern Triangle.” She mentioned her plans to travel to Mexico and Guatemala, but noted she has no plans to visit the southern border as she did when she was a presidential candidate and U.S. senator.
- Asked whether she would visit the southern border, Harris clearly distanced herself from the border crisis, saying, “the President has asked Secretary Mayorkas to address what is going on at the border,” while she has been “asked to lead the issue of dealing with root causes in the Northern Triangle, similar to what then-Vice President did many years ago.”
APRIL 19 – Biden Administration Retreats on Refugee Cap
- On April 16, President Biden issued an emergency determination keeping the refugees cap at 15,000, which is the current level set by the Trump administration. There was immediate outcry from immigration interest groups who argued that Biden abandoned a core campaign promise. In her April 19 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden “remains committed to pursuing the aspirational goal of reaching 125,000 refugees by the end of the next fiscal year.”
APRIL 19 – Biden Admin Issues Memos Banning the Use of the Legal Term “Alien”
- Memos issued to employees of both CBP and ICE direct employees to use the term “non-citizen” or “migrant” rather than the legally correct term “alien.”
APRIL 20 – DHS, DOL Open Door to More H-2B Visas
- DHS and DOL announce that they have jointly agreed to issue an additional 22,000 H-2B guestworker visas using authority given to them by Congress. This comes shortly following the administration’s decision to resume processing for H-2B and other guestworker programs, allowing a Trump-era order to expire that barred new guestworker admissions, citing the labor market effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
APRIL 21 – House Passes Two FAIR-Opposed Bills
- The House of Representatives passed two FAIR-opposed bills: H.R. 1333, the NO BAN Act, and H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act. Neither bill garnered significant Republican support and will likely die in the Senate, where it is unlikely that Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will find the necessary 60 votes required to pass the bill and send it to President Biden.
APRIL 26 – Biden Nominates ICE Director
- President Biden tapped Harris County, Texas Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to serve as Director of ICE. The nomination of Gonzalez, a harsh critic of local cooperation with federal immigration authorities and strong enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, is opposed by FAIR.
APRIL 27 – State Dept. Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions on Foreign Students
- Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that students from countries affected by a geographic COVID-19 restriction will be able to qualify for a national interest exemption, including Brazil, China, Iran, or South Africa.
DHS Announces End of Enforcement Actions at Courthouses
- Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced new limits on immigration enforcement actions in courthouses. This reverses a Trump-era policy that allowed ICE and agents to arrest removal aliens at courthouses. This is the first time that DHS has restrained CBP with such a policy.
APRIL 29 – President Biden Fails to Offer Solutions to Border Crisis
- In an address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden failed to provide solutions to the escalating emergency on our southern border. Instead, Biden urged Congress to pass his mass amnesty legislation or smaller amnesty measures that could garner bipartisan support.