WASHINGTON, April 26, 2021 — In his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden has made immigration one of his primary policy priorities. The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) calculates that the administration has taken 94 executive actions on immigration to date, compared with fewer than 30 advanced during the same timeframe by Donald Trump, whose administration arguably was more active on immigration than any preceding one. More than half of the Biden actions have undone or sought to undo Trump administration measures.

In a new article in MPI’s online magazine, the Migration Information Source, MPI Senior Fellow Muzaffar Chishti and Associate Policy Analyst Jessica Bolter examine the Biden administration’s actions on immigration in its early months.

While much attention has focused on the sharp uptick in arrivals of asylum seekers and other migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, the authors write that the administration’s first 100 days “may ultimately prove more consequential at a policy level when viewed in terms of the wide array of policy changes that affect immigration enforcement in the U.S. interior and at the border, foreigners’ ability to travel to the United States and immigrants’ ability to access various benefits including legal status.”

The article identifies significant developments in several areas, including:

•    Interior enforcement. The implementation of changed enforcement guidelines for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), narrowing the categories of removable noncitizens for arrest and removal, may be the administration’s “quickest and most dramatic accomplishment,’’ the article states. ICE arrests decreased by more than 60 percent, from an average of 6,800 monthly during the last three months of the Trump administration to 2,500 in February, Biden’s first full month in office.

•    Visa restrictions. The Biden administration terminated its predecessor’s travel bans on nationals from 13 predominantly Muslim and African countries. It also lifted the ban on issuance of certain immigrant visas, which had been justified by a first-of-its-kind claim that these immigrants would compete with unemployed U.S. workers.  
•    Humanitarian protection. The Biden administration took significant steps to protect certain national-origin groups from deportation, making an estimated 323,000 Venezuelans and 1,600 nationals of Myanmar eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The article notes that the administration has been sharply criticized, though, by refugee advocates and fellow Democrats for backtracking from a commitment to significantly increase refugee resettlement places this fiscal year from the historic low of 15,000 set by Trump.

•    Immigration benefits. The administration has reversed the Trump public charge rule, which subjected green-card applicants and those renewing temporary visas to a forward-looking test to assess whether they might ever use public benefits in the future. Nearly 21,000 individuals were denied visas on public charge grounds in fiscal 2019, compared to 1,000 in fiscal 2016, the article notes. Perhaps most notably, though, the Trump public-charge rule sparked significant withdrawal from public benefits usage by immigrants and their families. The Supreme Court today declined a request by 14 Republican attorneys general to defend the Trump-era rule.

Overall, the MPI analysts found Biden has achieved 12 of the 26 immigration actions he pledged to take up during his first 100 days. Campaign pledges have yet to be met in areas including undoing Trump actions on asylum and eliminating immigrant detention in facilities run by private prison contractors. Other areas, including Biden’s push for legalization for the nation’s estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants, will require action by Congress.

“While Biden can implement many changes through executive action, he faces an uphill battle where congressional action is needed,” Chishti and Bolter write. However, “On the whole, Biden’s first 100 days demonstrate the power that the president has to shift the course of U.S. immigration policy. This executive power was first embraced by Obama and taken to an unprecedented level by Trump. Unlike his predecessor’s first 100 days, though, Biden’s have been relatively unmarred by legal challenges.”

Read the article here: www.migrationpolicy.org/article/biden-100-days-immigration.

The article is one in the monthly U.S. Policy Beats published by the Migration Information Source. To receive word of the Policy Beat each month, sign up here: www.migrationpolicy.org/content/sign-us-immigration-policy-beat.

The Migration Information Source offers fresh thought, authoritative data and global analysis of international migration and refugee trends, publishing country profiles, feature articles, the U.S. Policy Beat and a monthly Spotlight on a particular immigrant population in the United States.