News & Events

Summary of President Biden’s Executive Orders – Week of Feb 1, 2021

On February 2, 2021, President Biden signed three Executive Orders on immigration. Here are the highlights:

Legal immigration and integration:

  • Creates a Task Force on New Americans to review existing regulations and policies and to make recommendations on how to remove barriers and promote integration, inclusion and citizenship
  • Orders immediate review of the public charge regulation and related deportability ground, including identifying actions to “address concerns about the current public charge policies’ effect” and recommending steps aimed at “reduc[ing] fear and confusion among impacted communities”
  • Orders the development of a plan to eliminate barriers to naturalization, reduce current processing times, increasing accessibility including by reducing fees and restoring fee waivers, and reviewing denaturalization practices to make sure they are not used excessively or inappropriately
  • Creates an interagency naturalization working group to develop a strategy to promote naturalization
  • Revokes the policy that required family sponsors to repay the government if a sponsored relative received public benefits

Asylum and the border:

  • Orders preparation of a “root causes strategy” to make recommendations on addressing causes of migration in the Northern Triangle, combating corruption, countering violence (including gender-based violence) and addressing economic insecurity
  • Orders preparation of a “collaborative management strategy” to focus on infrastructure to facilitate access to protection and lawful immigration paths, including consultations with civil society, private sectors, NGO’s and governments
  • Orders a review of ways to increase refugees from Central America including through in-country refugee resettlement processing, reinstating the Central American Minors program, and considering the use of parole to promote family unity for family members with approved immigrant visa petitions
  • Orders the review of asylum policies and regulations, including whether to end or modify the Migration Protection Protocol (Remain in Mexico) program, the cooperative agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras (which were terminated following the Executive Order)
  • Revokes a number of presidential actions related to the border and asylum, including programs meant to fast track asylum claims with limited due process
  • Orders the review of expedited removal procedures, including the recent expansion of expedited removal that “shall consider our legal and humanitarian obligations, constitutional principles of due process.”
  • Orders rule making to define “particular social group” for purposes of asylum with a consideration of whether the US “provides protection for those fleeing domestic or gang violence in a manner consistent with international standards”

Task Force on Reunification:

  • Establishes an interagency task force to identify all children separated from families at the southern border during the Trump administration and reunify families
  • Orders the newly created task force to make recommendations about the use of parole to reunite families, the provision of trauma and mental health services, and the possible reunification of additional family members, such as siblings
  • Calls for consultation throughout the process with diverse stakeholders including domestic and international NGO’s

On February 5, 2021, President Biden announced a goal of 125,000 refugee admissions for the next full fiscal year (starting October 1, 2021). President Biden also signed an Executive Order on refugee resettlement, which, among other things:

  • Affirms it is the policy of the US to carry out humanitarian programs consistent with international obligations, that the refugee resettlement program should be “rebuilt and expanded” while eliminating delays and improving security vetting to be “more efficient, meaningful, and fair” and providing applicants with procedural safeguards
  • Revokes three executive actions that had put in place additional vetting measures and caused significant delay and allowed states to restrict refugee resettlement
  • Calls for improvements to the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Iraqi and Afghan allies, including a complete review of the program which could include issuance of new guidance to remove barriers and delays, and an evaluation of whether legislation is needed to create an SIV program for individuals who have assisted the US in conflict areas regardless of nationality
  • Orders review of process by technology and data experts to streamline processing, improve automation and effectiveness of security vetting and fraud detection
  • Expands adjudication capacity by ordering adequate staffing levels, more efficient process for collection of biometric data, permitting video and audio interviews, and consideration of whether regulations are needed to “ensure the quality, integrity, efficiency, and fairness of the adjudication process”
  • Orders development of mechanisms to ensure applicants have access to their own records and are permitted to have a representative at their interview at no cost to US government, are provided with explanation for any denial, and have a meaningful opportunity to present additional evidence or request review
  • Orders DHS to ensure that adjudicators are trained in standards governing claims of women, children, and other vulnerable individuals due to their age, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation
  • Orders DHS and DOS to consider taking action to recognize as “spouses” individuals in committed life partnerships including same-sex, interfaith, or camp-based marriages
  • Calls for development of a plan to increase community and public-private sponsorships to expand capacity of the program
  • Orders consideration of ways in which NGO’s can make direct referrals for particularly vulnerable individuals
  • Calls for creation of a plan to reduce processing times, including a review of security vetting procedures to reach a goal of 180 day processing timeframe
  • Orders a report on climate change and its impact on migration, including options for protection and resettlement, and the use of foreign assistance to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change