Big waves in the media and online made Biden with his first day actions on a couple of issues, including on immigration. He ended the Muslim ban and introduced an immigration bill.
And while there were many headlines about illegal immigration, a few people in the U.S. seems to know that former President Donald Trump has stopped almost all of the legal immigration since April 2020.
Using Covid-19 and the economy as an excuse, he signed two proclamations, one in April (for immigrant visas) and one in June (for work visas).
Both of them were extended by Trump on December 31st 2020 and will last until March 31st 2021, unless Biden or a court ends them.
The proclamations are banning entry of new immigrants on family visas, diversity visas and other types of immigrant visas which lead to green cards and also on different types of work visas.
Because of the ban on entry, the State department adopted a policy saying no new visas should be issued until the proclamation is in effect because those visa holders would not be able to enter into the United States.
No new legal immigration since April
This resulted in the lowest levels of legal immigration in decades.
“The second half of FY 2020 saw 92 percent fewer immigrants from abroad than the first half, which was larger than any annual decline in the history of the United States”, according to this analysis from the Cato institute.
According to the Cato institute, this is “the lowest rate of immigration except for three years during World War II and one year during the Great Depression”.
This increased the existing backlog.
#LitigationWorks. Last night in a case filing, @StateDept released stunning numbers showing that more than 380,000 LEGAL immigrants are waiting for interviews at US Consulates. That number stood at 28,000 in 2017. Trump HAS stopped legal #immigration. pic.twitter.com/AoDcA1UXtq
— Charles Kuck (@ckuck) January 7, 2021
Lawsuits challenging the bans
There were a couple of lawsuits challenging the bans and some of them succeeded and plaintiffs were able to get an interview, a visa and enter into the United States. Like the Young v Trump for family visas and NAM v DHS for work visas.
There is another case (Gomez v Trump) in which diversity visas were issued to around 6000 people before the end of the fiscal year (September 30, 2020), but they’re still subject to the proclamation and cannot enter into the United States until the proclamation is in effect. Some of those visas are already expired and the biggest part of them will expire in March.
Without action from the new administration or a court order, these people can forever lose the chance to immigrate to the United States, even though they completed all of the procedures, paid for them and a consular officer granted visas to them. You can read more about their experience HERE.
While they’re waiting for action, the lawyers in the case have asked the judge for an order on reissuance of the visas as a last resort if the proclamation is in effect until the end of March. The next status conference on this is on Friday, January 29, 2021. The official standing of the State department under Trump was that none of the visas can be issued or reissued after the deadline (September 30th of each fiscal year). We will have to see if the new State department under Biden will change its guidance.
The part of the case about the legality of the proclamations is also in the DC Court of Appeals, there was a hearing on January 14, 2021 and now we are waiting for a decision – the lawyers are asking for ending the bans.
Last Friday there was another hearing on the Anunciato v. Trump case, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit is also asking the judge to strike down the proclamation and for visa processing to resume.
“The ex-president used a health crisis to carry out an illegitimate, nativist agenda. By sustaining this proclamation further, you simply allow the prior administration to carry out what we believe to be an unlawful stopping of legal immigration to the United States,” Charles H. Kuck of Kuck Baxter Immigration LLC told the judge.
What came as a surprise were the legal arguments from the lawyer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office that was defending Trump’s proclamations even now when he is no longer in the White House. The judge’s decision is expected soon.
None of the judges so far haven’t issued a nationwide injunction that would effectively end the proclamation for everybody.
What can we expect from Biden
Sources from the new administration told journalists that they will have a thematic day on immigration issues on January 29th. There are a couple of things that will be dealt with that day.
The part about “removing barriers and restoring trust in the legal immigration system” has left many people wondering if this means that Biden will take care of this problem on Friday and end Trump’s proclamations. Of course, until we have an official statement on this, we cannot be sure.
I sent questions to the transition press team that is now the White House press team (and I haven’t received any answer), and I’ve contacted journalists from some of the biggest media outlets in the United States. The ones that were interested in this have already tried to get an answer from the Biden team but as they told me, they are ignoring all the questions on the proclamation.
Even journalists who got the memo have said that they don’t know anything more than what’s published there.
In the Executive Action that ended the Muslim ban there is a part that is adressing visa processing.
“Sec. 2. Resumption of Visa Processing and Clearing the Backlog of Cases in Waiver Processing. (a) The Secretary of State shall direct all Embassies and Consulates, consistent with applicable law and visa processing procedures, including any related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), to resume visa processing in a manner consistent with the revocation of the Executive Order and Proclamations specified in section 1 of this proclamation.
(b) Within 45 days of the date of this proclamation, the Secretary of State shall provide to the President a report…”
But nothing can happen even for a people in these countries until Trump’s proclamations are in effect. You can see how that looks in this response from the US Embassy in Djibouti here:
In this game, weeks turn into months and months turn into years. Families denied under the Muslim Bans have waited long enough. @TravelGov @US_Emb_Djibouti #noban #MuslimBan pic.twitter.com/NhG1WrzlJ6
— Rafael Urena (@rafaesq) January 21, 2021
I wrote a whole piece on this issue a few days ago.
And what about Biden’s thoughts on this ban?
Perhaps the closest we got to an answer from Biden on the proclamations was a June tweet of his, where he criticized Trump’s extension of the proclamation in question.
This is yet another attempt to distract from this Administration’s failure to lead an effective response to COVID-19. Immigrants help grow our economy and create jobs. The President can’t scapegoat his way out of this crisis. https://t.co/FEqWNJG6TK
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) June 23, 2020
If he thinks that this was wrong and that “immigrants help grow the economy and create jobs”, then he should most definitely end the proclamation.
Time for action
The actions that politicians take have real life consequences. We saw many stories about people affected by the Muslim ban and by many other policies on immigration that Trump implemented.
But that is still not over. After the euphoric first day of President Biden, immigration attorney Curtis Morrison wrote this on Twitter.
I learned today one of #DV2020 selectees who @rafaesq and I represent had a heart attack and died. He leaves behind a spouse and children who were derivative beneficiaries on his application. But now, their immigration path ends. My thoughts are with this family.
— Curtis Morrison (@curtisatlaw) January 21, 2021
And there are many more here.
Families are separated, lives are put on hold, there is an urgent need for action now!
Written by: Jovan Postoloski