Fulfilling a Day One promise, President Biden rescinded the discriminatory Muslim ban and a subsequent expansion that further blocked people from a number of African nations, calling the policies in “a stain on our national conscience and are inconsistent with our long history of welcoming people of all faiths and no faith at all.” While mass protests and outcry sprung up nationwide following the initial ban’s implementation, the Supreme Court upheld a redo of the policy in one of its most despicable rulings in modern history. Thousands of families, including U.S. citizen children, have been separated by the policy in what one advocate called “perhaps the greatest untold story of family separation.” As of Jan. 20, the bans are no more. “This is a momentous occasion for the millions of Americans who were separated by the ban and those who stood up against this injustice at airports nationwide,” Muslim Advocates said. “Thank you, President Biden for staying true to your promise to repeal this bigoted policy immediately.” Advocates further urged Congress to pass the NO BAN Act to ensure no president can ever enact such bigoted bans again.
While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June that the previous administration had unlawfully ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, it for months defied that ruling, refusing to fully reopen the program to potentially thousands of new applicants. The previous administration finally reopened it in December following yet another court decision finding former acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Chad Wolf lacked the authority to make changes to the policy due to his own unlawful status. However, officials kept alive the threat to again try to end it, saying in an order that the DHS “will comply with the order while it remains in effect, but DHS may seek relief from the order.” But on Wednesday Biden ended that threat, issuing an order “preserving and fortifying” the policy for new applicants as the administration also seeks permanent relief for them through legislation. While DACA could still be at risk due to a Texas judge, the threat is no longer coming from inside the house.
Biden provided thousands of Liberian immigrants who can’t return to their home country due to civil war and other conflicts with essential relief, extending their Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) protections for another 18 months. Much like Temporary Protected Status (TPS), DED had been under relentless attack by the previous president. The UndocuBlack Network said in a statement that the previous administration in fact “sealed its legacy of cruelty” by letting DED lapse just days before Biden was to take office. Under his order, DED is now extended through June 30, 2022, giving Liberians vital time to apply for permanent relief through the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness program (LRIF). However, because the previous administration sought to sabotage that program through red tape and other obstacles, advocates also urged the Biden administration to ensure it lifts any impediments blocking that legalization process for this community. “We are unreeling from 4 years of chaos, and so we welcome the Biden administration’s compassionate beginning on this matter,” UndocuBlack Co-director Patrice Lawrence said.
Biden issued an executive order ending the so-called “national emergency” his predecessor declared as an excuse to build a border wall that Mexico never did pay for, and ordered a halt to construction “as soon as possible but in no case later than seven days” while the new administration reassesses the legality of the project. “Like every nation, the United States has a right and a duty to secure its borders and protect its people against threats,” Biden’s order said. “But building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border is not a serious policy solution. It is a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security.” Advocates who have been pushing the new administration to cancel border contracts—which it has every power and ability to do—cheered the news. “The president’s quick action on this executive order is an important step toward repairing the senseless destruction and xenophobia that have shattered the borderlands for four years,” environmental activist Laiken Jordahl told The Washington Post. “Contracts must be canceled, and not another foot of wall should be built through these beautiful wild places.” Congressional Democrats also said Biden has every power to redirect border wall funding Republicans forced into the recent spending package. Sounds good to me.
Biden on Wednesday ended his predecessor’s deplorable mission to block undocumented immigrant communities from being counted in the 2020 census, issuing an executive order rescinding the unconstitutional memo seeking to erase them from the count. “We have long guaranteed all of the Nation’s inhabitants representation in the House of Representatives,” Biden’s order said. “This tradition is foundational to our representative democracy, for our elected representatives have a responsibility to represent the interests of all people residing in the United States and affected by our laws. This tradition also respects the dignity and humanity of every person.” The past administration’s sabotaging has thankfully also been hindered by the recent resignation of U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham, who still had a year left in his term but quit this week after whistleblowers revealed he’d pressured staffers to rush a flawed, politically motivated report to the previous president. Lawmakers are now urging the Biden administration to prioritize a number of fixes to the count, including creating a commission to review initial results.
REMAIN IN MEXICO
Biden’s DHS announced a huge first step in dismantling the previous administration’s anti-asylum Migrant Protection Protocols policy (also known as Remain in Mexico), saying it will stop all new enrollments. “Effective tomorrow, January 21, the Department will cease adding individuals into the program,” DHS said. “All current MPP participants should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials.” Under the policy, roughly 70,000 asylum-seekers have been forced to wait out their U.S. immigration courts in Mexico, many of them in harmful and dangerous conditions. Following Biden’s victory, asylum-seekers living in a border camp for a year now cried from joy at the possibility of having a fairer chance of winning relief in the U.S. Now with no more people being thrown into the policy, advocates urged the new president to end it altogether. “The Biden administration needs to keep going to end this illegal policy and remedy the intolerable situation of people currently in the program,” the American Civil Liberties Union said. “That means allowing them to pursue their cases in the United States, in safety and without further trauma, detention, delay, or coercion.”
In one of the biggest blows to the previous administration’s detention and deportation agenda, Biden rescinded its 2017 policy that put just about any undocumented immigrant at risk of getting swept up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. “The policy of my administration is to protect national and border security, address the humanitarian challenges at the southern border, and ensure public health and safety,” Biden’s order said. “We must also adhere to due process of law as we safeguard the dignity and well-being of all families and communities. My administration will reset the policies and practices for enforcing civil immigration laws to align enforcement with these values and priorities.” While ICE was already deplorable before the previous president ever took office, his order unleashed agents and gave them full permission to act with impunity. Among those deemed a “risk to public safety or national security” included Maribel Trujillo, an Ohio mom torn from her four U.S. citizen kids despite having no criminal record. Trujillo would eventually be allowed to return to the U.S. to seek asylum, but not before being separated from her family for a bitter 17 months.
THE 100-DAY MORATORIUM
In one of the most welcomed and celebrated actions Wednesday, Biden ordered a 100-day moratorium on most deportations beginning on Friday, BuzzFeed News reported. “The memo states that the 100-day pause applies to all noncitizens with final deportation orders except those who have engaged in a suspected act of terrorism, people not in the US before Nov. 1, 2020, or those who have voluntarily agreed to waive any right to remain in the US.” Advocates who had pushed for a moratorium during the 2020 race celebrated the news, which came after some doubts about whether or not he’d fulfill the campaign promise. “Immigrant youth of UWDA traveled to Iowa in early 2020 to speak directly to then-candidate Joe Biden to demand a moratorium on deportations, which separate families, harm and kill our people. Tonight, we delivered,” United We Dream Action Executive Director Greisa Martinez Rosas said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “This is our win and it is just the beginning; immigrants across the country can go to sleep knowing they are protected.”
The executive actions came following the Biden administration unveiling its plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, with a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants at its center. The plan, called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, would allow undocumented immigrants who have already been registered with the federal government in programs like DACA and TPS, along with undocumented farm workers (who have always been essential), to apply for immediate green cards. The plan also includes the NO Ban Act, which “prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans.” (More details are available here.) Biden is set to announce further immigration actions on Jan. 29 addressing asylum and family separation.