Biden Administration Lifts Muslim Ban, Introduces US Citizenship Act of 2021

On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the Trump administration departed the White House and President Joseph Biden immediately made his presence known. With his new administration comes the hope of immigration reform. One of the first Executive Orders signed by President Biden put an end to the "Muslim Travel Ban." The Trump administration enacted this ban in 2017, limiting travel to the U.S by immigrants of several counties, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Following legal challenges, Trump issued an Executive Order removing Iraq from the list and adding restrictions on Chad, North Korea and Venezuela. On January 31, 2020, the Trump administration expanded the ban to include certain visas for residents of Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, and Tanzania. On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued a proclamation revoking the Trump travel bans, and the State Department has been instructed to resume working on visa applications from these countries. A 100-day ban on deportations has been enacted as well. Asylum seekers no longer have to wait in Mexico, in a reversal of the Trump Administration Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) policy.

The Biden-Harris administration has already introduced a new immigration bill that would reset much of the previous administration's restrictive immigration policies. This new Act is called the U.S Citizenship Act of 2021. The Citizenship Act would allow for an increase of screening technologies at the U.S border. It would also include funding and support for Central American countries in an effort to address the roots of the immigration crisis. The Act ]also lays out an eight-year plan to give the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship. Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. The act also includes a NO-BAN (National origin-based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants) provision. This provision eliminates any religious-based discrimination and will limit the power the of future Presidents has to enact such bans. The Act also provides for improving the asylum system and the immigration courts, which have long been neglected. The new Act will also protect families from being separated at the border, eliminate the “3 and 10 year bars,” and allow family members with approved family-sponsored petitions to wait for green card availability within the United States. The act will also stop all construction on the border wall across the Mexican-US southern border and change the word “alien” in immigration law to “non-citizen,” as the word alien has a negative connotation. Finally, the Act supports U-visa, T visa and VAWA applicants with additional protections and the availability of an additional 20,000 U visas.

Passing the U.S Citizenship Act will be an uphill battle. To pass the bill through the Senate, the Biden administration would need a vote count of 60. Currently the Senate is 50-50 between the Democrats and the Republicans. To pass this bill, ten Republicans would have to break party lines. This seems increasingly unlikely, as prominent Republican Senators including Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell have already signaled their opposition to the bill.

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Sheila Starkey Hahn

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Sheila Starkey Hahn has devoted her entire legal career to the practice of immigration law. With offices in up-state New York, Memphis and Washington DC, Ms. Starkey Hahn focuses her practice on employment-based immigration. She assists established c…

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