Weekly Immigration News: A Less Than Promising Start

During his campaign, President Joe Biden made many promises to the immigrant community. However, after his first two weeks in office, it appears that the Biden Administration will continue to face significant pushback at every turn and it will take time to undo the damage done by the former President:

  • A Texas federal judge has stopped the recent 100-day deportation moratorium for 14 days while he examines the Texas Attorney General’s lawsuit, which cites a violation of immigration law, and a questionable contractual agreement between the DHS and the State of Texas. This contract states that the DHS needs to “consult Texas and consider its views” before any immigration policy shifts. It should be noted that the legality of such agreements is disputed and there have been no permanent changes as of this week.
  • The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently rescinded the “zero tolerance” memo issued in 2018, which allowed thousands of migrant families to be separated at the US-Mexico border. However, although this shift is representative of a change in immigration law, rescinding the “zero tolerance” memo has little impact on the number of people expelled at the border as officials have been deporting migrants under a CDC pandemic policy.
  • Following a series of government official replacements under the new Biden administration, James McHenry, the head of the US immigration courts, is stepping down from his position. While in his role, McHenry was a key figure in restricting asylum eligibility and enabling questionable practices at the DOJ. Although McHenry will continue to work at the Department of Justice (DOJ) with OCAHO, Jean King will take his position as head of the immigration courts.
  • Although it is still unclear whether the action will go through, President Biden plans to implement an executive order that rescinds a Trump administration proclamation, which suspends specific visas based on immigrant financial status and their impact on the labor markets. As of now, Donald Trump’s proclamation expires on March 31, 2021.
  • Additionally, the Biden administration has issued an executive order against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) use of private prisons. Presently, there is no indication that this order will limit the use of private prisons as undocumented immigrant detention centers, although limiting for-profit ICE facilities was a Biden campaign promise and a change that immigrant advocates have been promoting for years.
  • In some welcome news, the USCIS has extended and redesignated Syria for “Temporary Protected Status.” The re-designation allows people from Syria currently in the United States to register for TPS for the first time through March 31, 2021. The extension allows those with TPS to renew their TPS status.

Photo Credit: Lorie Shaull

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