Migrants in the US and elsewhere can now breathe a little easier. After a long and hard campaign Joe Biden has gained the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. He brings new hope with liberal immigration policies. Here we elaborate on what the Biden-Harris administration offers vis-à-vis immigration, and how it would impact the immigrant population in America.

Backbone of economic growth

Many researchers consider the immigrant community in America to be the supporting pillar of sustained economic growth. In a research paper published in April 2020 noted economists Chloe Smith and Pia Orrenius remarked that without migrants the US economy would struggle to grow. An ageing population would result in a decline in labor participation and productivity. Migrant workers fill this void. In their July 2020 policy brief, analysts from the National Foundation for American Policy similarly surmised that “…lower levels of legal immigrations carry significant consequences for Americans”.

The Trump administration’s hardliner approach to immigration was seen by many as a threat to economic growth. A Forbes analysis of Trump’s policies recently made an interesting prediction. It said that if Donald Trump got reelected his administration would have reduced legal immigration by 49% during his second term. The Biden-Harris victory bodes well not just for migrant workers, but also for the American economy. Speaking on National Public Radio earlier this year Biden said that he “…will take on the heavy lift of pushing comprehensive immigration reform through Congress…” Biden’s immigration policy outlined in ‘The Biden Plan for Securing our Values as a Nation of Immigrants’ inspires optimism in the migrant community.

Revocation of executive order suspending green cards

The US only allocates 1,40,000 green cards annually for employment-based immigration. These include visas for migrant workers’ family members. The National Immigration Forum estimates that there are presently 1.1 million foreign nationals in the US seeking green cards. The Trump administration suspended issuing green cards to migrants till December 31, 2020 through executive orders. Joe Biden promises to revoke the suspension. He further aims to work with Congress to increase the number of green cards issued every year. Aspirants waiting for their green cards can hope for the process to speed up greatly in the next couple of years.

Reforms in immigrant employment

There is every possibility that the Biden administration will support a program which lets city and county governments take the lead on immigration. Local governments would bring in people from all over the world on behalf of employers. Regional governments would also be able to request additional visas to be issued, if the employer organizations can prove the need. This should be no problem for Silicon Valley, which is facing a dire shortage of skilled workers. Thousands of Indians working in American tech firms send money to India with clockwork regularity, to support their families.

Under the new policy immigrants would have to work and reside in the cities of their employment. Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, called this “the Democratic version of President George W. Bush’s ‘Willing worker, willing employer’ proposal.” This program, if successfully implemented, would provide employment to thousands of additional immigrants.

Revamped visa policies

The Biden administration would aim to reform the issue process for temporary visas as well. Biden has already been vocal about lifting the Trump administration’s suspension on H1-B visas (visas for skilled workers). There are also expectations about the easing of J1 visas (visas for exchange programs) and L1 visas (visas for executives in large corporations). There is no word yet from the Biden camp on how soon this might happen. However, when implemented, this would come as a respite to those seeking employment in technological and automotive industries.

The Trump administration also previously tightened the requirements for F1 and M1 visas, among others. These restrictions discouraged international students from coming to the US for higher education. Estimates by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas indicate that student visa applications and issuances plummeted by 43% since Trump took office in 2016. The F1-visa applications fell from approximately 735,000 in 2016 to 450,000 in 2019. If the Biden administration walks the talk, getting student visas will also become much easier.

Reversal of Muslim travel ban

The Trump administration placed an entry ban on travelers from certain Muslim nations including Iran, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Venezuela, and Yemen. This effectively shut the door to immigrants looking for work or refuge from persecution. Joe Biden has promised to rescind the travel ban and let citizens from these countries come to America for work and other purposes.

Revamped immigration policy

Biden has also mentioned on several occasions that his Day One agenda after he takes control of the White House on January 20, 2021 would be “to send a legislative immigration reform to Congress to provide a roadmap to citizenship to 11 million undocumented immigrants.” He also promised to unite immigrant children with their families. If Biden’s reformed bill passes, it would help hundreds of thousands of immigrant families working and living in the US.

But when?

Can all this really be made possible? Many analysts think it can. Donald Trump may still have administrative powers till January 20, 2021. He can still roll out more restrictive orders till then. However, Biden has vowed to reverse all Trump-imposed migration restrictions. Considering that most of them were passed through executive orders (rather than via Congress), rescinding them should be a walk in the park for the Biden administration.

About the author:

Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.

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