ICYMI: Legislative and Administrative Updates

Dear partners, 

The Biden-Harris Administration has already introduced important immigration policy reforms, including efforts that enhance protections for immigrant survivors. ASISTA welcomes these efforts, and we will be there each step of the way to help ensure a safer and more just America for survivors and for all immigrants. We are committed, as always, to keeping you informed about these issues in the days to come!  Below please find a brief summary of executive actions on immigration, legislative proposals, and upcoming webinars. 

I. Administrative Actions

A. Enforcement

  1. Executive Order on the Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities This executive order specifically revokes the Executive Order on Interior Enforcement issued by the Trump Administration on January 25, 2017 and directs federal agencies to take actions, including issuing revised guidance, to adhere to due process, protect national and border security, address the humanitarian challenges at the southern border, ensure public health and safety, and safeguard the dignity and well-being of all families and communities. 
  2. DHS Memo-Review of and Interim Revision to Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Policies and Procedures. Yesterday, Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske issued guidance to CBP, ICE, and USCIS to review enforcement-related policies and procedures, including detention, the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and policies on interactions with state and local law enforcement. The guidance institutes a 100 day moratorium on certain deportations while the review is being completed with certain limited exceptions. The guidance indicates that while the policy review is being completed, DHS’ enforcement priorities shall focus on those who pose a national security risk, individuals apprehended on or after November 1, 2020, and incarcerated individuals released on or after January 20, 2021 who have been convicted of an “aggravated felony,” as defined in the iNA at the time of conviction, and are determined to pose a threat to public safety.  In addition, this memo specifically rescinds the 2018 Notice to Appear Guidance which has had a significant and direct impact on survivor-based immigration protections.  The 2011 Notice to Appear Guidance now holds. 

    On Friday, January 22, 2021, the Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas challenging the 100 day moratorium. We will keep you updated on this litigation as it progresses. 

B.  Affirmative Protections

  1. Affirming DACA: The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, shall take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA. 
  2. Liberian DED: Through this executive order, President Biden reinstated Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians (who have a grant of DED as of January 10, 2021) extending protections and work authorizations until June 30, 2022.

C. Border Policies 

  1. Suspension of New Enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) Program. DHS announced that it would stop new enrollments into the MPP program effective yesterday, January 21, 2021. This is a critical first step, but DHS has yet to issue further guidance for individuals currently enrolled in the MPP program. But also notes that nonessential COVID-related travel restrictions remain in place. 
  2. Halting Border Wall Construction: President Biden signed a proclamation terminating former President Trump’s 2019 Executive Order declaring a national emergency at the Southern Border. The Proclamation stops the allocation of funds and construction of the border wall at the Southern border and calls for an assessment of the legality of the funding used to construct the wall, and calls on the federal agencies to redirect funds and repurpose contracts currently allocated for wall construction . 

D. Ending Muslim and African Travel BansOn Wednesday, President Biden issued a proclamation rescinding the travel ban on Muslim majority and African countries, and calls on the State Department to expedite the cases of those seeking a waiver under the prior ban, create a process by which those visas that were denied under the ban may seek reconsideration, and that applicants for visas are not prejudiced as a result of a previous visa denial due to travel bans. This proclamation also calls for DOS and DHS to review screening and vetting procedures for those seeking immigrant and non immigrant visas and provide recommendations for improvement. It also calls on the Department of State to review of foreign government information-sharing practices to ensure accuracy and reliability, and that the agency  reviews  on the use of social media identifiers and whether this has improved screening and vetting. DOS has issued an initial statement on President Biden’s rescinding of the travel ban orders. 

E. Executive Order on Advancing Racial EquityThis executive order calls on federal agencies to redress inequities in their policies and programs that serve as barriers to equal opportunity, including addressing access to benefits and government programs, and increasing engagement with underserved communities. Importantly, this Executive Order overturnedthe harmful Trump executive order prohibiting certain diversity training on racial and gender biases and disbanding the 1776 Commission.

F.  Regulatory Processes

  1. Regulatory Freeze: The Biden Administration issued a regulatory freeze which means that rules that have been published in the Federal Register but have not yet taken effect will be postponed for review.  This includes recent EOIR proposed rules like good cause for continuances and motions to reopen. 
  2. Modernizing Regulatory Review: This executive order instructs the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to review the regulatory process to provide recommendations on how the regulatory review process can “promote public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations.” In addition, it instructs OMB to come up with suggestions to “ensure that regulatory initiatives appropriately benefit and do not inappropriately burden disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities.”

G. Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Census: This executive order rescinds prior Trump administration actions on census data which excluded undocumented immigrants in consideration for the reapportionment of Congerssional representatives.  

H. Upcoming Administrative Actions The administration has planned other executive actions on immigration next week (January 29th) , including taking actions to restore U.S. asylum protections, review the public chargerule, strengthen refugee processing and create a task force on family reunification.

II. Legislative Proposals

President Biden has announced a comprehensive immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 which would extend legal status to undocumented individuals with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. This bill, sponsored by Senator Menendez in the Senate also creates immediate paths to permanent legal status for TPS holders, Dreamers, and farmworkers.  In addition, the bill also takes efforts to streamline family immigration, address backlogs, and contain specific protections for immigrant survivors including tripling the U visa cap.  For more information, see this comprehensive fact sheet here.

III. Policy Webinar: Immigration Policy Updates and the Impact on Survivors

ASISTA, together with our partners at the Alliance for Immigrant Survivors is hosting a webinar on Thursday, February 4, 2021 at 3pm ET to talk about these and other policy changes and proposals and their impact on protections for survivors of violence. Please join us for this important webinar to learn more about these recent developments and ways you can engage in advocacy efforts to enhance paths to safety and protection. Register here today!

As always, thank you for your incredible work on behalf of survivors and their families.