In his effort to reverse a series of controversial immigration policies implemented by Donald Trump, new US President Joe Biden has now set his sights on rescinding the former President’s US work visa ban. Trump imposed the ban amid the coronavirus pandemic saying that it was ‘necessary to protect American workers.’
However, according to a top adviser at the White House, Biden plans to revoke the rule that has locked out immigrants from accessing immigrant and work visas including the H1B visa, L1 visa, J1 visa and other US immigration routes.
During a virtual meeting with US mayors, deputy director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and top immigration adviser, Esther Olavarria, said: “Mr Biden plans to sign an executive order rescinding the proclamation that suspended certain immigrant and work visas.”
Ms Olavarria stated that the upcoming order would “rescind the Trump proclamations that precluded the admission of immigrants and non-immigrants either deemed to be a financial burden on our health care system or deemed to present a risk to US labor markets.”
The immigration adviser to Biden said that Trump’s policies had ignored decades, in fact centuries, of immigrant contributions made to America’s culture, economy and society. During the United States Conference of Mayors’ 89th winter meeting she said that ‘we want to return to being a nation that welcomes immigrants and recognises their contributions’.
There has been no indication as to when President Biden will sign an executive order rescinding the US work visa ban. However, it’s understood that Biden’s plans to issue several immigration actions have been delayed.
Ms Olavarria’s comments give the first insight into the Biden administration’s views on the US work visa ban. Amid Biden’s presidential campaign and the transition phase, the new President did not address the policy, while his advisers did not commit to revoking it.
With just weeks until Biden took office, former US President Donald Trump extended his work visa ban by a further three months – until March 31. The policy was first enforced in April 2020 and was expanded in June to include several US visa categories.
The ban currently prohibits new immigrant visas being issued to those seeking to move to the US permanently through green card petitions filed by US family members or American employers.
However, spouses and children under the age of 21 are not subject to the visa ban, which also exempts some healthcare workers involved in the frontline fight against COVID-19. Meanwhile, wealthy individuals who agree to invest a minimum of $1 million in US projects can still access visas.
The proclamation has also seen the diversity visa lottery program suspended. In September 2020, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to issue visas to more than 9,000 immigrants who won the lottery last year. However, they are still unable to enter the US because of the ban.
A court ruling in October has prevented the government from applying the visa limits to workers sponsored by several major US firms.
Policy analyst for the non-partisan Migration Policy Institute, Sarah Pierce, said: “Mr Trump’s pandemic-era visa restrictions have had ‘some staying power’ because they were enacted on economic grounds.”
However, Ms Pierce believes that lifting the restrictions will receive some opposition, but she did acknowledge that the limits are of no benefit to US workers.
Pierce told CBS News: “With the US suffering from a 6.7% unemployment rate, convincing a segment of the US population that the restrictions need to be rescinded will not be an easy task.”
“The economic crisis is still here and it’s a huge problem for the United States. Biden is going to have to present reasons for why he feels it’s right to undo these proclamations despite their supposed benefits to the US economy.”
Green card blockages
According to Pierce, more than 8,000 green card petitions were blocked between April and November 2020 due to the restrictions.
Meanwhile, Olavarria stated that Mr Biden will also reverse a proclamation issued by Trump in October 2019, which allowed the federal government to refuse US visa applications made by people it deems unable to pay health insurance or cover their medical costs while in the US.
An outline of expected executive actions to be issued by Biden, seen by CBS News, suggests that Biden is planning to sign an additional directive that will instruct officials to review the highly controversial public charge rule.
The rule allows immigration enforcement to deny green card and US visa applicants if they deem that they are likely to rely on state benefits such as food stamps.
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