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Possible Changes to Immigration and Other Laws in the Administration of President-Elect Joe Biden

Starting January 20, 2021, a Joe Biden Administration (if confirmed) will likely propose several changes to immigration law and other federal laws. As of this writing, it appears the President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris will select a new Cabinet and work with a Democratic-led House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate’s make-up won’t be clear until after the two runoff elections for Senator in Georgia in January.

In addition to legislative proposals, many changes to federal rules and regulations are likely to be created through Executive Orders and administrative oversight.

Some immigration law changes will come quickly. Some changes will require the consent of enough Republicans. Many changes may need to go through a procedural rules process. The changes in the immigration rules will be affected by America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other nations’ responses.

Likely changes to immigration law in a Biden administration

In large measure, the most significant change will be in tone. Joe Biden has indicated that immigration is the backbone of America – that most Americans can trace their ancestry through their immigrant relatives. A major focus of change will be to de-criminalize immigration enforcement by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service.


For starters, President-elect Biden will most probably restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections. DACA helps shield about 650,000 people from deportation who came to the U.S. when they were young. He’ll also likely keep in place certain protections for Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforcement Departure, which help address humanitarian tragedies.

Biden is also expected to remove bans from traveling to the U.S. from about 13 countries – many of whom have Muslim majorities.

The U.S./Mexico border wall won’t be a priority

It’s almost certain that a Biden administration will stop building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The nearly 400 miles of border wall that have been built so far will likely remain, but there won’t be new miles added. Nor will funds be taken from other agencies to fund new building of the border wall.

Skilled workers and innovation

Other immigration changes include steps to make it easier for businesses to hire immigrants for their businesses. These changes (some administrative and some through hopeful new laws) may address expanding cap limits so more skilled workers and professional workers can apply. Innovation and entrepreneurship will be encouraged by expanding caps for immigrants with those backgrounds too. Some skilled works, such as those with technical, engineering, science, and math skills, may become exempt from any caps. Per-country visa caps may also be eliminated or changed.

In addition to larger cap limits, workers will also likely be encouraged by reducing some of the requirements applicants for visas, and green cards must meet.

Employers will likely be expected to comply with E-Verify, which is a United States Department of Homeland Security website that allows businesses to review the eligibility of their employees, both U.S. and foreign, to work in the United States.

Additional immigration changes

Deportations are expected to be limited to people with serious criminal records.

President-elect Biden has said he wants his administration to work to reconnect many border children who were separated from their parents.

President-elect Biden has indicated he wants to remove policies that make it harder for people seeking asylum. He will likely order or request that asylum-seekers be permitted to wait for hearings in the U.S. instead of in Mexico or elsewhere. This change may be slower than others so that there isn’t a new wave of asylum seekers.

Biden’s administration is likely to seek to overturn the “public charge” rule, which disqualifies many people from obtaining a green card (permanent legal residency) because they relied on government benefits.

Depending on whether the Senate stays Republican or becomes Democratic will likely affect Biden’s desire to fix many other problems with the U.S. immigration system – including addressing the status of millions of immigrants already living in the United States.

Some of the many other laws that affect immigrants that will be changed by a Biden administration include the Affordable Care Act, laws involving biases, paid leave, minimum wage, and other workplace laws.

Talk to a premier Austin immigration advocate today

At Lyttle Law Firm, our Austin and San Marcos immigration lawyers will stay current with the changes to the law in a Biden/Harris administration. Our skilled lawyers represent immigrants and families nationwide. Contact us at 512.215.5225 or use our online form to schedule an appointment.

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