First Look at President Biden’s Immigration Policies

A new administration brings forth the power to make crucial changes within the United States, and all eyes are on President Joe Biden as he sets the tone for his term as president. Of the anticipated changes include the hot topic of immigration, which President Donald Trump had focused on during his term as the 45th President of the United States. President Trump’s primary mechanism of bringing forth changes in immigration was through executive orders. Just as executive orders can be issued by a president, a new president has the power to rescind such orders. President Biden wasted no time within the first week of his Presidency, quickly signing 17 executive orders, memorandums, and proclamation on January 20th, 2021[i]. Among those come highly anticipated immigration changes, many of which work to rescind President Trump’s previous orders.

Travel Ban

Many remember President Trump’s controversial Muslim Ban, a series of executive orders that barred nationals from certain majority Muslim countries from entering the United States. [ii] During his campaign, President Biden promised to eliminate the Travel Ban within his first 100 days of taking office. [iii] Just hours after his inauguration, President Biden signed the “Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States” which rescinded the Travel Ban. [iv] The proclamation revoked President Trump’s Travel Ban, with plans to begin processing visas for applicants affected by the ban.  


President Biden signed a memorandum to preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, more commonly known as “DACA.” DACA allows undocumented persons who entered the United States as children to remain in the U.S. and work, without facing immigration repercussions. President Trump attempted to end the program numerous times during his presidency, and was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court from doing such.[v] President Biden’s memorandum seeks to preserve the program, and provide beneficiaries of DACA with a pathway to citizenship.[vi]

Border Wall Construction

President Biden has issued an executive order to stop construction on the wall between the United States and the southern border.[vii] The order directly rescinds President Trump’s previous executive order which declared the southern border an issue of national emergency, and allocated billions of tax dollars to the construction of the wall. President Biden’s order pauses all construction on the border until the legality of the funding and construction are assessed.

Relief for Liberians

President Biden has taken measures to protect Liberians in the United States from deportation. His executive order extends the Deferred Enforced Departure program, which allows Liberians fleeing civil conflict to remain in the United States until June 2022 with work authorization.[viii]  

Immigration Enforcement Policies

President Biden has issued an executive order revoking President Trump’s executive order to prioritize ICE arrests. President Trump had previously signed the Executive Order to increase deportation of undocumented individuals in the United States. President Biden’s Order rescinds this Order, and it is anticipated that ICE arrests will decrease as a result.[ix]

Proposed Legislation

Many of President Biden’s anticipated immigration changes are through his proposed bill, “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.” The bill is threefold: providing paths to citizenship and strengthening labor protections, prioritize smart border controls, and address the root cause of migration. President Biden’s bill seeks to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, keep families together by getting rid of lengthy wait times and bars to admission within the US, increase Diversity Visas, and increase H-1B visas by providing increased routes for migrant graduates within the United States. President Biden’s bill looks to prioritize smart border controls by enhancing technology at the border to scan narcotics, and secure ports of entry at the border, as well as establishing rescue beacons to prevent deaths along the border. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 also seeks to address root causes of migration by providing increased protection for asylum seekers and vulnerable individuals fleeing to the United States.

What Comes Next?

Although President Biden has taken quick steps to expand immigration policies in the United States, there are still many expected changes to come. Among issues expected to be tackled are the Migrant Protection Protocols, where those awaiting immigration proceedings are sent to remain in camps in Mexico. The Migrant Protection Protocol, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, established by President Trump has been heavily criticized for forcing migrants into inhumane living conditions while awaiting determinations by USCIS. President Biden has sworn to end this process during his presidency. President Biden is also expected to raise the refugee cap, previously set to 15,000 refugees by the Trump administration. The cap limits the number of refugee applicants which the United States will consider. Biden has pledged to raise this cap to 125,000, allowing for increased refugee admissions into the United States.

[i] Kavi, A. (2021, January 21). President Biden’s 17 Executive Orders in Detail. The New York Times.

[ii] Timeline of the Muslim Ban. (2020, February 10). ACLU of Washington.

[iii] Semotiuk, A. J. (2021, January 22). Biden’s First-Day 17 Executive Orders Included Major Changes To Immigration. Forbes.

[iv] Proclamation on Ending Discriminatory Bans on Entry to The United States. The White House.

[v] Vogue, A. June 18 2020 (2020, June 19). Supreme Court blocks Trump from ending DACA. CNN.

[vi] Alvarez, P. C. (2021, January 21). Immigration: Biden halts border wall and travel ban - CNNPolitics. CNN.

[vii] Proclamation on the Termination Of Emergency With Respect To The Southern Border Of The United States And Redirection Of Funds Diverted To Border Wall Construction. The White House.

[viii] Fact Sheet: Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). (2021, January 22). National Immigration Forum.

[ix] Erickson, B. (2021, January 22). Biden signs executive actions on COVID, climate change, immigration and more. CBS News.