Border Update: The U.S Citizenship Act and the First 100 Days
Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Biden Ends Muslim Ban, Secures DACA
As predicted, the new U.S administration has begun implementing changes to immigration and asylum policies. Of note are the president’s decision to “preserve and fortify DACA,” which will permit undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain in the country indefinitely while enrolled in school or the military. Biden has also ended the travel ban which prohibited citizens of certain Muslim majority countries, including those fleeing persecution from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, Somalia, and Eritrea, from immigrating to or seeking asylum in the United States. In addition, he has pledged to raise the “cap” of the number of refugees the United States will accept from 15,000 under the Trump administration to 125,000.
While the new policies of the Biden administration have led some immigration rights advocates to feel “cautiously optimistic” about future treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in the United States, the implementation of some referendums are proving to be more complex and slow-moving. For example, Biden’s moratorium on all deportations for 100 days has been challenged by the state of Texas, prompting protests at the border and leaving the future of many asylum seekers currently detained in limbo. Additionally, the new administration’s promise to end the “Remain in Mexico” program, which has forced thousands of asylum seekers to await their asylum hearings in dangerous border towns, has not provided any clear direction for the fates of the thousands of individuals who are currently enrolled; nor does it offer them any options for legal or protected status.
Meanwhile, additional security measures in Mexico and Guatemala are increasing the difficulty for those fleeing persecution to seek asylum in the U.S. And COVID-19 remains an obstacle in the path of expediting asylum hearings, as well as complex systems and procedures that affect those who have already been waiting for months, or years, to receive asylum at the border.
The U.S Citizenship Act: No longer “alien”
Even while thousands of asylum seekers await an uncertain future at the U.S-Mexico border, President Biden has proposed a new Citizenship Act that aims to simplify legal processes by making it easier for DACA recipients and those with Temporary Protected Status (asylum seekers who are unable to return home for reasons of safety) to obtain legal status and a path to citizenship.
The Biden Administration’s policies are a sharp contrast to the previous administration’s harsh rhetoric. However, despite many efforts to reunite families, halt border wall construction, and end the “Remain in Mexico” program, thousands of asylum seekers remain stuck at the border, in detention centers, vulnerable to COVID-19 and other dangers, awaiting their hearings. There’s still a lot of work to do.
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