This article is part of the Moving Forward on Immigration series that explores the future of immigration in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
The Biden administration will soon lead a vibrant nation of immigrants—a nation that includes millions of noncitizens with deep ties to the United States who are at risk of deportation.
This important and diverse population includes immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years, have close family in this country, and make meaningful contributions to their communities, the workforce, and the economy.
Until we have a legislative solution, the administration must use all available tools to provide stability and protection for long-residing immigrants and their families.
Protect People with Temporary Protected Status
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a legal status available to people from certain designated countries suffering from natural disasters, armed conflict, or other extraordinary circumstances. People living in the United States at the time their country is designated for TPS may apply for protection, which includes temporary permission to stay and work authorization.
The Biden administration should issue new designations for those countries that the Trump administration sought to terminate—El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan.
While court orders have delayed the termination of TPS for these countries, TPS holders will be in legal limbo unless the new administration acts.
Most TPS holders have lived in the United States for at least 20 years and have been repeatedly vetted by immigration authorities. Approximately 273,000 U.S. citizen children have a parent with TPS and without additional protections, they risk separation.
While it would take legislation to provide a path to permanent status for all TPS holders, the Biden administration could open more doors. Consistent with the law, the administration should treat a grant of TPS or travel on advance parole after receiving TPS as a cure for certain past immigration violations that would prevent TPS holders from gaining permanent status.
This would allow more TPS holders with U.S. citizen spouses, children, or parents to obtain permanent residency.
Facing the same uncertainty are Dreamers—people who came to the U.S. at a young age who otherwise have no path to legal status because of harsh immigration laws.
Despite recent court victories, the Trump administration’s relentless efforts to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have highlighted the delicate nature of the initiative and the need for a permanent solution.
The Biden administration should reinstate and expand DACA. In its current form, DACA has many strict eligibility requirements, including upper and lower age caps, and education and residence requirements. A person with even a minor criminal history is likely barred from DACA.
The new administration can eliminate or relax these requirements so they don’t risk deportation to a country they no longer call home.
Dreamers who are eligible for DACA must not be deported. The Biden administration should administratively close all deportation proceedings for people who could, and should, be granted DACA. The administration should also work to help Dreamers and others who have viable defenses to removal or otherwise qualify for immigration status in pursuing and obtaining relief.
Like TPS, there are no clear paths to permanent legal status for DACA recipients or their family members. Congress must change that. But the Biden administration could use a program called Parole-in-Place (PIP) to expand the options for DACA holders to apply for lawful permanent resident status through U.S. citizen family members.
The Biden administration must fulfill its promise to protect Dreamers by using all administrative options and pushing Congress to finally create a legislative solution.
Protect Lawful Permanent Residents
Even lawful permanent residents (LPRs or “green card” holders) can be deported under “tough on crime” immigration laws. A wide range of criminal convictions, including minor convictions and convictions that occurred many years ago, can result in deportation for LPRs. Black and brown immigrants are disproportionally likely to be caught in this jail-to-deportation pipeline.
The Biden administration should work to ensure that LPRs, having already faced consequences through the criminal legal system, are not also subjected to a second, even harsher, penalty. Deportation means separation from home, family, livelihood, and in many cases permanent exile.
Until Congress provides across-the-board protection for LPRs, the Biden administration must set enforcement priorities and exercise prosecutorial discretion to avoid placing LPRs in removal proceedings.
Protect Undocumented Residents
Our immigration system is outdated and overly punitive. As a result, many undocumented individuals have no available pathway to legal status—even people who have lived in the United States for many years or who have U.S. citizen family members.
Again, it is up to Congress to create a long-term solution. But the Biden administration can immediately provide some protection for long-term residents and other undocumented people with strong ties to the United States through its enforcement priorities. The new administration can and should choose not to deport the vast majority of these people.
Until a robust legalization plan is enacted, the administration can use other tools to provide status or permission for people to remain in the United States.
The government can expand PIP to allow more people to remain in the United States and apply for LPR status through U.S. citizen family members. The government can make it easier for eligible individuals to apply for cancellation of removal—a path to legal status that is currently only available in immigration court. The new administration can grant Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)—another, lesser-known temporary legal status.
Our immigration system will never (and should never) deport the entire undocumented population. Allowing immigrants with strong ties to the United States to remain here avoids the separation of families, decreases exploitation of workers, and enables people to work hard to improve their own lives and communities.
With so many tools available, the Biden administration has no excuse for leaving millions of long-term residents in limbo, under constant threat of deportation.
FILED UNDER: Biden-Harris Administration, Moving Forward on Immigration