Biden Directs Review of Immigration Policies, Seeks to Reduce Unnecessary Barriers
On the same day his nominee for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Alejandro Mayorkas, was confirmed, President Joe Biden signed several Executive Orders regarding immigration, including one that directs complete review of policies.
The first, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” is of particular interest to the business community. It sets up a task force to conduct a top-to-bottom review of recent changes that have created barriers to legal immigration, including employment based. This will include a review of the public charge rule, fee increases, and streamlining of the naturalization process, among others. Recognizing the difficulties created over the past four years by the many unpublicized rule, policy, and guidance changes, this Executive Order directs a comprehensive agency review of all immigration-related regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and other similar agency actions that impede access to fair and efficient adjudications. It likely will include a review of the policies that led to a 21% denial rate and a 47% Request for Evidence (RFE) rate for H-1B petitions in FY 2020.
The second looks to roll back damaging asylum policies and develop an effective strategy to manage asylum cases across the region.
The third creates a task force to reunify families that were separated at the border.
These latest Executive Orders build on changes already made since January 20, 2021, including:
By Proclamation, President Biden eliminated the Muslim and Africa Travel Bans;
By memorandum, he fortified the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program;
By Executive Order, the President revoked the prior administration’s “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order, which provided the basis for changes that led to historically high levels of RFEs and denials of nonimmigrant visa petitions;
Rescinded a rule that would have eliminated the H-4 Employment Authorization Document (EAD) program that gives work authorization to spouses of certain H-1B workers in the Green Card process;
Withdrew the Strengthening the H-1B Visa Classification Program rule that would have enshrined rules the DHS itself predicted would lead to a 30% H-1B denial rate; and
Delayed for review a rule that would dramatically raise prevailing wages for H-1B, H-1B1, E-3, and PERM cases.
These Executive Orders and policy announcements are consistent with the administration’s stated goal of creating an immigration system that is more welcoming to immigrants and to the employers who rely on them. President Biden recognizes that “new Americans fuel our economy, as innovators and job creators, working in every American industry and contributing to our arts, culture, and government.”