Major Biden Administration Actions
This page compiles and summarizes select Biden administration immigration announcements and actions that address or affect the catalogued Trump-era policies. More detailed descriptions of the Biden administration actions addressing Trump administration polices appear in each of the relevant policy entries. All affected policies are labeled with a sortable "tag" noting either "Biden administration action" or "Biden administration revocation."
President Biden’s Day 1 Executive Actions
January 20, 2021
Reverses President Trump’s Executive Order Excluding Undocumented Immigrants from the Reapportionment Count
- Executive Order revokes the prior Administration’s orders excluding noncitizens from the Census and apportionment of House of Representatives seats, and ensures that the Census Bureau has time to complete an accurate population count for each state.
Preserves and Fortifies Protections for Dreamers
- Presidential Memorandum directs the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Attorney General, to take all appropriate actions under the law to achieve the goal of preserving and fortifying Dreamers’ protections.
Reverses the Muslim/African Bans
- Proclamation ends the Muslim Ban, including repeals of Proclamations 9645 and 9983 restricting entry into the United States from primarily Muslim-majority and African countries.
- State Department will restart visa processing for affected countries and swiftly propose remedies for harms caused by the bans, especially for individuals stuck in the waiver process and those who had immigrant visas denied.
- Enhances information sharing with foreign governments to strengthen screening and vetting for travelers.
- Directs reviews of Trump Administration “extreme vetting” practices.
Repeals Trump Interior Enforcement Executive Order
- Executive Order revokes Trump Executive Order 13768, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” about interior immigration enforcement.
- Promises civil immigration enforcement policies that best protect the American people in line with our values and priorities.
Stops Border Wall Construction
- Proclamation immediately terminates the national emergency declaration used to justify some wall-funding diversions and immediately pauses wall construction projects to review legality of the funding and contracting methods used. A review will determine how to redirect funds diverted for wall construction.
Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians Presidential Memorandum
- Presidential Memorandum extends DED and work authorization until June 30, 2022 for Liberians. DHS will ensure that USCIS facilitates applications and timely adjudications for Liberians applying for residency under the Liberian Relief and Fairness Act.
DHS "Pause" and Interim Revision to Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Policies and Priorities
January 20, 2021
Memo by Acting DHS Secretary David Pekoske establishes temporary enforcement priorities and announces a 100-day “pause” on removals of certain persons with final orders. Effective January 22, 2021, the moratorium applies to people with final orders of removal, not to other types of enforcement action such as arrests, detention, and removal proceedings. The memo requires a department-wide review of all enforcement practices to be completed within 100 days along with recommendations regarding enforcement, prosecutorial discretion, detention, and interaction with state and local law enforcement.
The memo also rescinds and supersedes the following Trump administration actions:
- Department of Homeland Security, Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest, Memorandum of February 20, 2017.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Implementing the President’s Border Security and Interior Immigration Enforcement Policies, Memorandum of February 20, 2017.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Guidance to OPLA Attorneys Regarding the Implementation of the President’s Executive Orders and the Secretary’s Directives on Immigration Enforcement, Memorandum of August 15, 2017.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Updated Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Deportable Aliens, Policy Memorandum of June 28, 2018. (US Citizenship and Immigration Services should revert to the preexisting guidance in Policy Memorandum 602-0050, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Revised Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) in Cases Involving Inadmissible and Removable Aliens, Policy Memorandum of Nov. 7, 2011.)
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Guidance for the Referral of Cases and Issuance of Notices to Appear (NTAs) When Processing a Case Involving Information Submitted by a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Requestor in Connection with a DACA Request or a DACA-Related Benefit Request (Past or Pending) or Pursuing Termination of DACA, Policy Memorandum of June 28, 2018.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Executive Orders 13767 and 13768 and the Secretary’s Implementation Directions of February 17, 2017, Memorandum of February 21, 2017.
Interim Enforcement Priorities: Effective February 1, 2021, the new enforcement priorities appear to cover the entire enforcement spectrum: “These priorities shall apply not only to the decision to issue, serve, file, or cancel a Notice to Appear, but also to a broad range of other discretionary enforcement decisions, including deciding: whom to stop, question, and arrest; whom to detain or release; whether to settle, dismiss, appeal, or join in a motion on a case; and whether to grant deferred action or parole.” Only the following individuals are identified as priorities during the 100-day moratorium:
National security threats – Those DHS alleges to be involved in terrorism, espionage, or pose national security risk.
Border Security – Those who attempted to enter unlawfully at either a port of entry or without inspection on or after November 1, 2020.
Public Safety – Those currently imprisoned in local, state, or federal jails who have an aggravated felony conviction and pose a threat to public safety.
Exceptions to the moratorium are slightly different than the enforcement priorities. The moratorium does NOT apply to:
- National security threats according to the Director of ICE.
- People who entered the United States on or after November 1, 2020.
- People who voluntarily agree to deportation after meaningful access to legal counsel.
- People for whom the Director of ICE determines that removal is required by law.
The memo instructs the Acting ICE Director to issue operational guidance including a process for “individualized review and consideration of the appropriate disposition for individuals who have been ordered removed for 90 days or more, to the extent necessary to implement this pause. The process shall provide for assessments of alternatives to removal including, but not limited to, staying or reopening cases, alternative forms of detention, custodial detention, whether to grant temporary deferred action, or other appropriate action.”
DHS Statement on the Suspension of New Enrollments in the Migrant Protection Protocols Program
January 20, 2021
DHS announces it will stop new enrollments in the MPP program. “Effective tomorrow, January 21, the Department will cease adding individuals into the program. However, current COVID-19 non-essential travel restrictions, both at the border and in the region, remain in place at this time. All current MPP participants should remain where they are, pending further official information from U.S. government officials.”
White House Regulatory Freeze Pending Review
January 20, 2021
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain issues a memo for the heads of executive departments and agencies. They are required not to "propose or issue [any] rule in any manner" without review and approval by leadership designated by the new administration. In addition, rules sent to the Office of the Federal Register but not yet published are withdrawn.
For rules published in the Federal Register that have not yet taken effect, "consider postponing the rules' effective dates for 60 days from the date of this memorandum." The memo applies to:
(a) “rules” as defined in section 551(4) of title 5;
(b) any substantive action by an agency (normally published in the Federal Register) that promulgates or is expected to lead to the promulgation of a final rule or regulation, including notices of inquiry, advance notices of proposed rulemaking, and notices of proposed rulemaking; and
(c) any agency statement of general applicability and future effect that sets forth a policy on a statutory, regulatory, or technical issue or an interpretation of a statutory or regulatory issue."
Rescinding the Zero-Tolerance Policy for Offenses Under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)
January 26, 2021
Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson issues a memo rescinding the April 6, 2018 "zero-tolerance memo by his predecessor Jeff Sessions. Wilkinson's rationale is that DOJ has a "longstanding principle of making individualized assessments in criminal cases. . . . A policy requiring a prosecutor to charge every case referred for prosecution under 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a) without regard for individual circumstances is inconsistent with our principles."
Executive Order on the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families
February 2, 2021
President Biden issues an executive order pledging that his "Administration will protect family unity and ensure that children entering the United States are not separated from their families, except in the most extreme circumstances where a separation is clearly necessary for the safety and well-being of the child or is required by law."
- establishes an Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families, chaired by the DHS Secretary. This Task Force's goals are focused on identification and reunification of children separated by the Trump administration. It will also, inter alia, produce "recommendations regarding the possible exercise of parole under 8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(5)(A), or the issuance of visas or other immigration benefits."
- Various reporting deadlines are included, with the first report due in 120 days. Within a year, the Task Force shall issue "a report containing recommendations to ensure that the Federal Government will not repeat the policies and practices leading to the separation of families at the border."
- The order explicitly revokes Executive Order 13841 of June 20, 2018 (Affording Congress an Opportunity To Address Family Separation).
Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans
February 2, 2021
President Biden issues an executive order that gives primacy to the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) to "coordinate the Federal Government's efforts to welcome and support immigrants, including refugees, and to catalyze State and local integration and inclusion efforts" and convene a Task Force on New Americans.
- To restore the legal immigration system, the order requires the DHS Secretary, Secretary of State, and Attorney General to review "existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions" for incompatibility with its policy goals.
- In setting 90-day (plan) and 180-day (report) deadlines for the Cabinet Secretaries to act, the order specifies removing barriers to access, singling out as an example an August 3, 2020, final rule: “U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee Schedule and Changes to Certain Other Immigration Benefit Request Requirements."
- Section 4 of the order addresses public charge by requiring a 60-day cross-departmental review of "all agency actions related to implementation of the public charge ground of inadmissibility in 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(4), and the related ground of deportability in 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(5)."
- The order also establishes an Interagency Working Group on Promoting Naturalization, with a 90-day mandate to produce a strategy on promoting naturalization. Using 60-day (plan) and 180-day deadlines, the order also requires the three Cabinet Secretaries to improve naturalization policies and practices, including through reduced waiting times and reviewing "policies and practices regarding denaturalization and passport revocation to ensure that these authorities are not used excessively or inappropriately."
- Finally, the order explicitly revokes a Presidential Memorandum of May 23, 2019 (Enforcing the Legal Responsibilities of Sponsors of Aliens), and initiates a review of that memo's effects.
Executive Order on Asylum and Regional Migration: Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration, to Manage Migration Throughout North and Central America, and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the United States Border
February 2, 2021
President Biden issues an executive order committing to "restore and strengthen our own asylum system, which has been badly damaged by policies enacted over the last 4 years that contravened our values and caused needless human suffering."
- The order centers developing two strategies "as soon as possible," guided by the National Security Advisor and involving a whole-of-government approach: United States Strategies for Addressing the Root Causes of Irregular Migration and for Collaboratively Managing Migration in the Region. The latter strategy "should focus on programs and infrastructure that facilitate access to protection and other lawful immigration avenues, in both the United States and partner countries, as close to migrants’ homes as possible" and includes assessing humanitarian assistance.
- The order requires the Secretaries of State and DHS to "promptly review mechanisms for better identifying and processing individuals from the Northern Triangle who are eligible for refugee resettlement to the United States," as well as access to visa programs and discretionary parole. The DHS Secretary must "consider taking all appropriate actions to reverse the 2017 decision rescinding the Central American Minors (CAM) parole policy and terminating the CAM Parole Program.”
- Section 4 of the order mandates "consultation and planning with international and non-governmental organizations to develop policies and procedures for the safe and orderly processing of asylum claims at United States land borders, consistent with public health and safety and capacity constraints."
- Specific policies targeted for review are “Order Suspending the Right To Introduce Certain Persons From Countries Where a Quarantinable Communicable Disease Exists,” 85 Fed. Reg. 65,806 (October 13, 2020); and “Control of Communicable Diseases; Foreign Quarantine: Suspension of the Right to Introduce and Prohibition of Introduction of Persons into United States from Designated Foreign Countries or Places for Public Health Purposes,” 85 Fed. Reg. 56,424 (September 11, 2020) (codified at 42 C.F.R. 71.40).
- Rules specified for review are:
- “Aliens Subject to a Bar on Entry Under Certain Presidential Proclamations; Procedures for Protection Claims,” 83 Fed. Reg. 55,934 (November 9, 2018),
- “Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications,” 85 Fed. Reg. 82,260 (December 17, 2020), and
- “Implementing Bilateral and Multilateral Asylum Cooperative Agreements Under the Immigration and Nationality Act,” 84 Fed. Reg. 63,994 (November 19, 2019).
- For so-called Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs) with Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the Secretary of State is instructed to consider suspending and terminating them.
- With respect to border processing of asylum claims:
- DHS Secretary is to "promptly review and determine whether to terminate or modify the program known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), including by considering whether to rescind the Memorandum of the Secretary of Homeland Security titled “Policy Guidance for Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols” (January 25, 2019), and any implementing guidance."
- Inter-departmental coordination is to "promptly consider a phased strategy for the safe and orderly entry into the United States, consistent with public health and safety and capacity constraints, of those individuals who have been subjected to MPP for further processing of their asylum claims."
- Implementation of the “Prompt Asylum Case Review” (PACR) program and the “Humanitarian Asylum Review Program” (HARP) shall cease, and associated actions shall be reviewed to consider rescission.
- Expedited removal is subject to a 120-day comprehensive review, including whether to change the 2019 expansion to the interior under “Designating Aliens for Expedited Removal,” 84 Fed. Reg. 35,409 (July 23, 2019).
- For asylum eligibility and criteria, the order requires:
- A 180-day "comprehensive examination of current rules, regulations, precedential decisions, and internal guidelines governing the adjudication of asylum claims and determinations of refugee status to evaluate whether the United States provides protection for those fleeing domestic or gang violence in a manner consistent with international standards."
- Within 270 days the DHS Secretary and Attorney General shall promulgate joint regulations "addressing the circumstances in which a person should be considered a member of a 'particular social group,' as that term is used in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(A)."
Executive Order on Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration
February 4, 2021
President Biden issues an executive order that sets out principles for the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) and other humanitarian programs.
- The order immediately revokes Executive Order 13815 of October 24, 2017 (Resuming the United States Refugee Admissions Program With Enhanced Vetting Capabilities), Executive Order 13888 of September 26, 2019 (Enhancing State and Local Involvement in Refugee Resettlement), and the Presidential Memorandum of March 6, 2017 (Implementing Immediate Heightened Screening and Vetting of Applications for Visas and Other Immigration Benefits, Ensuring Enforcement of All Laws for Entry Into the United States, and Increasing Transparency Among Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government and for the American People). Within 90 days of the order, the Secretaries of State and DHS are ordered to report on any agency actions that have been taken in furtherance of those three revoked executive actions.
- The order requires a report by the Secretary of State to the President within 180 days addressing special immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan allies. Topics for the report include whether there are undue delays in meeting statutory benchmarks for timely adjudication of applications.
- Separate reviews will address (i) the procedures for Chief of Mission approval of applications and (ii) identifying whether additional populations not currently provided for are at risk as a result of their faithful and valuable service to the United States Government. There is also a 30-day deadline for a report on fraud detection.
- Under "Steps to Improve the Efficacy, Integrity, Security, and Transparency of USRAP," the National Security Advisor shall appoint an NSC Senior Director responsible for coordinating the agencies and vetting partners involved in USRAP. Corresponding positions are created at State and DHS, and OMB is tasked with assigning a team of technology, process, and data experts from the United States Digital Service to assist agencies.
- The order aims to "expand refugee vetting and adjudication capacity" by technological innovation and improved use of hiring authorities. It sets a 30-day deadline, before evaluation, for agency submission of data to the National Vetting Governance Board on the number of staff performing refugee security vetting, the thresholds for checks, and the rates at which checks have returned an objection. And a 60-day deadline for agencies responsible for Security Advisory Opinions to meet and consider adjustments to that process.
- The DHS Secretary is tasked within 180 days with reviewing and reporting on improvements that could synthesize reliable, detailed, and current country conditions, ensure that refugee applicants have timely access to their own application records, permit refugee applicants to have a representative at their interview, and ensure, when refugee applications are denied for non-security or non-fraud-based reasons, an applicant is given a short explanation describing the basis for the denial, so that the applicant has a meaningful opportunity to present additional evidence and to request a review of the decision.
- Within 180 days, the Secretaries of State and DHS shall also report on changes to include as "spouses" individuals who are in committed life partnerships but who are unable to marry or to register their marriage due to restrictions in the law or practices of their country of origin, including for individuals in same-sex, interfaith, or camp-based marriages.
- Within 120 days, the Secretaries of State and HHS shall report on enhancements to the capacity of USRAP to welcome refugees by expanding the use of community sponsorship and co-sponsorship models by refugee resettlement agencies, and by entering into new public-private partnerships.
- The order requires a plan from the Secretaries of State and DHS, the Attorney General, and the Director of National Intelligence that addresses USRAP processing backlogs. The review will include measures to improve efficiency and effectiveness, as well as seek to bring national average processing times within the period described in 8 U.S.C. 1571(b).
- Finally, the order tasks the National Security Advisor in consultation with five Cabinet officials to prepare a report within 180 days on climate change and its impact on migration, including forced migration, internal displacement, and planned relocation. "This report shall include, at a minimum, discussion of the international security implications of climate-related migration; options for protection and resettlement of individuals displaced directly or indirectly from climate change; mechanisms for identifying such individuals, including through referrals; proposals for how these findings should affect use of United States foreign assistance to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change; and opportunities to work collaboratively with other countries, international organizations and bodies, non-governmental organizations, and localities to respond to migration resulting directly or indirectly from climate change."
A Letter to the Speaker Of The House And President Of The Senate Regarding the Termination of the National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border
February 11, 2021
Pursuant to section 202(a) of the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1622, President Biden transmits to Congress his Day 1 proclamation terminating the national emergency first declared in Proclamation 9844 of February 15, 2019 (Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States), which was continued on February 13, 2020, and January 15, 2021. An accompanying explanatory letter states: "I have determined that the declaration of a national emergency at our southern border was unwarranted. I have also announced that it shall be the policy of my Administration that no more American taxpayer dollars be diverted to construct a border wall, and that I am directing a careful review of all resources appropriated or redirected to that end."
ICE Interim Guidance: Civil Immigration Enforcement and Removal Priorities
February 18, 2021
ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson issues a memo to establish interim guidance implementing then-Acting Secretary Pekoske's memo issued on Day 1. Johnson states that "This interim guidance will remain in effect until Secretary Mayorkas issues new enforcement guidelines. The Secretary . . . anticipates issuing these guidelines in less than 90 days." He also flags that adjustments to the Day 1 memo are reflected in this guidance, which controls in case of conflict.
The interim guidance applies to civil immigration enforcement decisions including (but not limited to):
- Whether to issue a detainer or take custody of a person subject to a previously issued detainer;
- Whether to issue or cancel a Notice to Appear (an immigration charging document);
- Whether to stop, question, or arrest a person for immigration reasons;
- Whether to detain or release a person from immigration custody;
- Whether to grant deferred action or parole;
- When to execute a final order of removal.
Priorities for detention and deportation until new guidelines are issued will be:
- National Security Risks: Individuals engaged in, or suspected of engaging in, terrorism, espionage, or related activities, or whose arrest and custody are necessary to protect national security.
- Border Security Priorities: All people who unlawfully entered the United States on or after November 1, 2020, at a port of entry or irregularly, or were not physically present in the U.S. on that date.
- Public safety risks in one of three categories:
- convicted of an “aggravated felony”
- convicted of an offense with an element of active participation in a criminal street gang
- at least 16 years old and intentionally participated in an organized gang or transnational criminal organization
The memo notes that, even if those categories apply, to determine whether an individual is a “public safety risk,” ICE officers must assess the “extensiveness, seriousness, and recency” of a conviction as well as mitigation such as family and community ties, health, and safety, and evidence of rehabilitation.
- ICE personnel must take special care with people who are elderly or "are known to be suffering from severe physical or mental illness," or have certain pending motions, appeals, or applications. Deporting these individuals also requires a "compelling reason" and special approval.
Before arresting or detaining anyone else, ICE officers must obtain pre-approval in writing from either their field office director or special agent in charge. The memo acknowledges that due to exigency some enforcement actions will not permit preapproval. In such cases, post-action approval must be requested within 24 hours. So-called "collateral arrests" are prohibited without separate approval.
- The memo requires the associate directors for Enforcement and Removal Operations and Homeland Security Investigations to provide weekly reports on enforcement actions to the ICE Director, Deputy Director, and the Office of Policy and Planning (OPP) "on the nature and type of enforcement and removal actions that they perform."
- ICE shall maintain a system of individualized discretion "in the interests of law and justice" to evaluate individual requests.