Weekly Immigration Round-Up: Biden Restarts Processing Permanent Residence Visas; Court Weakens Deportation Moratorium; Supreme Court Examines Immigrant “Wealth Test”
President Biden Ends Restrictions on Permanent Residence Visas
On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it was rescinding a Trump-era order halting the issuance of permanent residence visas to most family members of United States citizens and current permanent residents.
The order barred anyone other than the spouse or minor child of a U.S. citizen from obtaining legal permanent residency through a family-based petition. The Trump administration, which first instituted the policy in April 2020, stated that it was necessary in order to protect the U.S. labor market during the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy prevented tens of thousands of siblings, parents, and adult children of U.S. citizens and permanent residents from coming to the United States.
Further, President Biden announced he would be rescinding a concurrent policy that halted the immigration of individuals who had been selected through the “diversity lottery,” which allows several thousand foreign nationals to immigrate to the United States each year from countries that are underrepresented in the United States population. It is not yet clear whether those who were already selected, but who missed out during the ten months in which admission was barred, will be given the opportunity to complete the process.
100-Day Deportation Moratorium Takes Another Hit in Federal Court
On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, United States District Court Judge Drew Tipton granted a preliminary injunction blocking President Biden from implementing an executive memorandum, issued on his first day in office, that called for issuing a temporary moratorium on deportations from the United States.
In his ruling, Judge Tipton made clear that the “preliminary injunction is granted on a nationwide basis and prohibits enforcement and implementation of the [deportation moratorium] in every place” the Department of Homeland Security has authority to execute removal orders. Judge Tipton further stated that the Texas Attorney General, who filed the lawsuit, proved that the pause on deportations violated administrative laws and procedures and would cause financial harm to the state.
Nevertheless, the preliminary injunction does not stop the government from carrying out other sections of the January 20 memorandum, including a review of the policies and practices linked to immigration enforcement.
Supreme Court to Hear Challenge on Immigrant Wealth Test
On Monday, February 22, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal challenge to a rule implemented by the former Trump administration that significantly raised the standard of proof for intending immigrants to show that they would not accept public benefits in the United States.
While the United States has for many decades permitted immigration officers to deny permanent residence to individuals who failed to show they would not accept government benefits, the new rule expanded the scope of the government’s review of documents, including a full history of education and vocational certificates, credit history and reports, proof of current and prior health insurance, among others. Immigration advocates have criticized the policy, arguing that it deters immigrants from seeking care in public health clinics and through other programs to which they are entitled, due to fear of future complications with their applications. Susan Welber, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, states that especially has been an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Supreme Court will consider the legality of the policy, putting pressure on the Biden Administration to take a definitive position on the issue in court. President Biden has not yet issued an official position on the case.