9 months into the Biden administration, what are the fundamental differences between the administrations when it comes to immigration?
Consistency is one. The Trump administration was anti-immigrant from the beginning and was consistent for four years in closing the doors to immigrants, both physically and metaphorically. The administration changed the way that immigration law was applied, it created travel bans based on physical location and on visa categories, with over 400 changes implemented and enforced, on all immigration levels. It built walls, it closed embassies, it banned people from certain countries from traveling directly to the U.S., essentially shut down the political asylum system and did not allow people to apply, and these were visible ways it was enforcing its all-out anti-immigrant attack.
The Trump administration also did this in silent ways, that perhaps only people like myself, immigration practitioners who live in trenches each day, saw, subtle changes that led to a huge decrease in immigration to the U.S.: Denials of cases, which quadrupled in comparison to similar cases under the Obama administration. Yes, your read it right: DENIAL RATES WERE 4X HIGHER UNDER TRUMP THAN UNDER OBAMA. This translated into fewer professionals coming to the U.S., more job shortages in crucial positions that help the U.S. competitive with other developed nations. It also meant a big downturn in foreign investment based on E-2 and EB-5, investment-based visa categories, which combine to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs every year.
How does this compare to the Biden administration so far? Well, so far the Biden administration has been extremely inconsistent. Some of the measures and changes implemented by President Trump through executive action were repealed through new executive action, namely Presidential Proclamations, like the ban on issuance of L-1 and J-1 visas. At the same time, the direct travel ban, which unfairly targeted the EU countries so important to foreign investment in the U.S., was only recently set to be lifted (November 8, 2021). It has also flip-flopped about its asylum policy, beginning with the emblematic speech from Vice President Harris where she summarized the administration’s stance on immigrants seeking asylum with two of the ugliest words possible “Don’t Come”. Behind the scenes, the administration is NOT making things easier on immigrants or their attorneys. The tendency under Trump to issue requests for additional evidence to thwart or slow down cases, and the subsequent denials of legitimate cases that should qualify prima facie (on their face, based on the correct application of the law) is still alarmingly high.
This is all adds up to an inconsistent and hypocritical administration when it comes to the immigration platform it espoused when seeking election and the one that now holds the reins. For those of us who are pro-immigrant and toil each day to bring positive difference-making immigrants to the U.S., the Biden administration has been an embarrassment and a disappointment so far. Let’s hope this changes, or in the end, all we got was the (slightly) lesser evil and a lot more of the same cloaked in a false promise.