Published: Mar 17, 2021, Updated: Mar 17, 2021
When he was still US President, Donald Trump suspended the issuing of Green Cards until the end of 2021. The reason he gave for this decision was that it would help to protect American citizens in the job market during the Covid-19 pandemic. When the order was about to expire, he issued an extension order for another three months.
When his successor, Joe Biden, became US President he decided to lift the temporary freeze on Green Cards. In the proclamation, he stated that closing the US to legal immigration does not benefit the country.
He added that exactly the opposite actually happened: it harmed the US. He quoted the examples of family members of US citizens as well as lawful permanent residents that are prevented from reuniting with their families in the country. The President added that it was also harmful to those local industries that relied on talent from across the globe.
According to researchers attached to the AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association), the freeze ordered by the Trump government resulted in up to 120,000 family-based visas not being issued. During the freeze, immigrants who had employment-based visas were also barred from entry. And finally, it prevented thousands of visa lottery winners from entering the United States.
Another negative side-effect of the green card ban is that there is now a large and increasing backlog of Green Card applications. According to one California immigration lawyer, there are as many as 473,000 family-based visa applications in the queue that must still be processed. The only way these people can ensure their case gets priority is by hiring an immigration lawyer.
According to Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, recipients of diversity visas who hold unexpired, valid visas are now allowed to apply for immediate entry into the US, since they fall under the blanket national interest exception.
Under current law, however, the majority of individuals who were not able to get green cards before the window closed, or whose visas have expired, would have no other option than to start the green card application process from scratch again.
Applicants who were rejected because of Trump's previous order and who did not meet the requirements for a visa waiver before January 20, 2020, will also have to apply for a green card again and pay the current application and processing fees.
The House will vote before the end of the week on two important immigration measures. Both are expected to be approved by the chamber but are likely to face hurdles in the US Senate. The two laws are the new Biden government's first attempts to see whether it can make progress on immigration in a Congress that is closely divided.
The first piece of legislation, referred to as The American Dream and Promise Act, would draw a roadmap to citizenship for young immigrants who were illegally brought into the United States when they were children and also for immigrants in the US who have temporary protected status or some other protection. The non-profit Migration Policy Institute said that, if approved, the legislation would impact about 4.4 million immigrants. Two years ago 7 Republicans joined Democrats to support the measure.
The House will also vote on the Farm Modernization Workforce Act, a measure that would offer a way to permanent residency and legal status for migrant farmworkers while at the same time laying down stronger requirements for the electronic system known as E-Verify that is used to verify the legal status of workers. The act will also reform the H-SA agricultural visa program. Two years ago the bill was supported by the Democrats and 34 Republicans. According to a 2016 estimate, there are currently around 1.2 million illegal farmworkers in the United States.
Democrats have stated publicly that they are willing to consider different avenues to bring about immigration reform. Some are still trying to get support for the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. This piece of legislation would create a roadmap to citizenship for the nearly 11 million immigrants who are presently in the US illegally.