Biden administration announces asylum system overhaul: What you need to know

Useful overview:

The Biden administration announced the final version of its long-awaited U.S. asylum overhaul Thursday, aiming to speed up processing at the border and alleviate backlogs throughout the country’s immigration courts.

Fixing asylum, a process that can drag out for years, was one of President Biden’s campaign promises. The overhaul represents the most significant change to the nation’s immigration system since he took office.

The new policy is scheduled to take effect May 28, two months after it’s published in the Federal Register. The change won’t affect most asylum seekers as long as a pandemic-related rule limiting access at the border remains in force. But the new system will probably be in place once that rule is lifted and the uptick in asylum requests begins.

“The current system for handling asylum claims at our borders has long needed repair,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a news release. “Through this rule, we are building a more functional and sensible asylum system to ensure that individuals who are eligible will receive protection more swiftly, while those who are not eligible will be rapidly removed.”

Asylum seekers will now have their claims heard by an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services within several months, if the plan works as intended, instead of waiting years for a final determination from an immigration judge.

The Homeland Security and Justice departments released a draft proposal in August. After reading through 5,000 public comments about the draft, officials on a call with reporters Wednesday said they made some changes but maintained the overall framework of the proposal. The officials — from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees immigration courts — spoke to reporters on condition that they not be named.

Under the rule, anyone denied protection by an asylum officer could request a reconsideration from Citizenship and Immigration Services within seven days. If turned down, the person could ask that an immigration judge review their application and later bring their case to the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal circuit courts. After all bids are exhausted, or if none are pursued, the person would be subject to deportation. The rule does not apply to unaccompanied children who arrive without a parent

Supporters say the policy improves what has long been considered a scary process for traumatized migrants. Instead of having to initially recount their worst experiences in an adversarial court setting as they defend themselves against deportation, migrants will now be able to make their case in an asylum office.

But many advocates worry the changes weaken constitutional due process rights for asylum seekers by essentially expanding the so-called expedited removal process, a mechanism used to quickly turn back immigrants apprehended at the border.

Richard Caldarone, who manages litigation at the Tahirih Justice Center, a national nonprofit serving immigrants who fled gender-based violence, said the new process serves no significant humanitarian purpose because it doesn’t give trauma survivors enough time to find a lawyer, gather evidence and recover.

“Survivors of trauma will not be able to recite what happened to them 72 hours after arriving in a safe place to a government official,” he said. “Given the emphasis that DHS has placed on speed for asylum seekers, this will be like the former process — designed in a way that will systematically fail to elicit people’s best asylum claims.”

A better system, Caldarone said, would give people a year before their asylum hearing to prepare and then quickly provide a decision as to whether they could stay or be deported. That would allow people to heal from trauma and lead to fewer appeals, he argued.

The backlog of pending immigration court cases has exploded in recent months, reaching nearly 1.6 million by December, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan data research center at Syracuse University. It has tripled since 2016.

Under the new system, asylum officers will grant decisions within roughly 90 days. Immigration court appeals will generally take another 90 days, officials said.

During his first year in office, Biden took roughly 300 executive actions on immigration, nearly a third of them to reverse course on Trump-era policies, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

One area he did not change: For the last two years, the border has been closed to the vast majority of asylum seekers under a restrictive pandemic-era policy initiated by former President Trump. The policy, known as Title 42, invokes a 1944 public health statute to quickly expel migrants who attempt to enter the U.S. in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Among more than 1.7 million people detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the southwest border during fiscal year 2021, 61% were expelled under Title 42, according to agency data.

Experts say those rapid removals under Title 42 resulted in an increase in unauthorized crossings into the U.S. by people who would have otherwise requested asylum at an official port of entry. The rapid removals back to Mexico also led to repeated border crossing attempts by migrants — inflating the number of Customs and Border Protection apprehensions.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally ended that policy for children traveling without a parent, saying their expulsion “is not warranted to protect the public health.” Immigrant advocates and Democratic congressional leaders have argued that the policy is illegal and have ramped up calls in recent weeks to also end its application to adults traveling alone and parents traveling with their children.

But asylum seekers will see no substantial changes, even once the updates are in place, until the CDC decides to end Title 42 entirely. In recent weeks, as the response to the pandemic has changed within the U.S., federal officials have begun planningfor the possible end of the policy.

The asylum overhaul will be implemented in phases, though officials said they have yet to decide where to roll out the initial program and whether to target any specific population, such as single adults or families.

On a call with reporters last week, Mayorkas said the phased implementation of the new asylum system is designed to avoid straining Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency has teetered on bankruptcy, he added, and was “virtually dismantled” under the Trump administration, whose immigration approach deterred many immigrants from filing applications before the pandemic further reduced the agency’s caseload.

“We have to be mindful of the resource constraints of the asylum division in U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as we rebuild that agency,” he said, noting that the agency is almost entirely funded by application fees.

Under the proposed rule, the agency estimated it would need to hire 800 new employees and spend $180 million to be able to handle 75,000 cases annually.

Before the pandemic, migrants encountered near the border were screened by agency asylum officers for fear of persecution. Those who passed the initial screening would have their cases moved to the immigration courts, where a judge would decide whether they qualified for asylum or another form of protection and could stay in the U.S.

Meanwhile, they were detained or released pending a final court hearing. Immigrants facing deportation don’t have the same right to a publicly funded attorney as people in criminal proceedings, and most represent themselves.

To qualify for asylum, immigrants must prove a fear of persecution in their home country based on one of five protected categories: political opinion, race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group.

Officials hope the new asylum policy will curb unauthorized migration.

“The ability to stay in the United States for years waiting for an initial decision may motivate unauthorized border crossings by individuals who otherwise would not have sought to enter the United States and who lack a meritorious protection claim,” the rule states.

The goal is also to reduce the stress for those who ultimately receive asylum or other immigration protections, according to the rule, as currently, “they are left in limbo as to whether they might still be removed, are unable to lawfully work until their asylum application has been granted or has remained pending for several months, and are unable to petition for qualified family members, some of whom may still be at risk of harm.”

Source: Biden administration announces asylum system overhaul: What you need to know

USA: Investor immigrants say their applications are viable despite program lapse

Of note:

A group of immigrant investors have filed a lawsuit claiming the Biden administration is unlawfully refusing to process their applications for visas and green cards after Congress allowed a major visa program they participated in to lapse.

More than a dozen plaintiffs in a complaint filed in Seattle federal court on Thursday said that while a program earmarking EB-5 visas for investors who pool money has expired, federal law still requires U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Department of State to process their applications, which were filed before the expiration.

The EB-5 program allows foreign citizens who invest $1 million in a U.S. business – or $500,000 in economically depressed areas – and create at least 10 jobs to qualify for visas and green cards.

The plaintiffs, who are citizens of Canada, Russia, India and other countries, applied to participate in the EB-5 Regional Center program, which reserves thousands of visas each year for investors who pool their money into large economic development projects.

Authorization for the program, which was first created in 1992, expired in June without action from Congress and its future is still in limbo. USCIS in December said it would not process visa and green card applications tied to the program until it is renewed.

But in Thursday’s complaint, the plaintiffs said the expiration of the program only meant that the government no longer had to grant a preference to applicants involved in the Regional Center program. The federal Immigration and Nationality Act still requires USCIS to process their EB-5 applications and set aside visas for them if they qualify, the plaintiffs said.

Jon Wasden of Wasden Banias, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that a decision in the plaintiffs’ favor could ultimately spur USCIS to process thousands of other pending applications.

USCIS and the Department of State did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The case is Bajaj v. Blinken, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, No. 2:22-cv-00189.

Source: Investor immigrants say their applications are viable despite program lapse

Biden seeking professional diversity in his judicial picks

Significant. In contrast, my analysis of judicial appointments under the Liberal government (close to 500 appointments, 55.7 percent women, 8.5 percent visible minorities, 3.1 percent Indigenous):

President Joe Biden spent a recent flight aboard Air Force One reminiscing with lawmakers and aides about his start as a young lawyer in Delaware working as a public defender in the late 1960s.

The flight from New York to Washington was short, and there wasn’t much time to explore the president’s brief time in the job during the civil rights era. But as Biden considers his first Supreme Court nominee, this lesser-known period in his biography could offer insight into the personal experience he brings to the decision. The account was relayed by a person familiar with the trip who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

Biden has already made history by nominating more public defenders, civil rights attorneys and nonprofit lawyers to the federal bench during his first year in office than any other president, increasing not just the racial and gender diversity of the federal judiciary but also the range of professional expertise. And it’s possible that theme will continue as he looks to make more history by nominating the first Black woman to the nation’s highest court.

While three of the current justices have experience as prosecutors, none was a criminal defense attorney. The last justice with serious experience in defense was Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights attorney nominated about 55 years ago. He was the first Black person on the court and retired in 1991.

Some of the women on Biden’s list of potential nominees have deep public defense or civil rights backgrounds: Ketanji Brown Jackson, 51, for example, worked as a public defender and served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission before she was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama. Eunice Lee, 51, whom Biden named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in August, is the first former federal defender to serve on that court.

Biden’s judicial appointments thus far make clear his interest in professional diversity.

Nearly 30% of Biden’s nominees to the federal bench have been public defenders, 24% have been civil rights lawyers and 8% labor attorneys. By the end of his first year, Biden had won confirmation of 40 judges, the most since President Ronald Reagan. Of those, 80% are women and 53% are people of color, according to the White House.

“It’s so important to have a diversity of perspectives and having the judiciary really reflect the diversity of lived experiences and perspectives of the folks who are coming before them,” said Lisa Cylar Barrett, director of policy at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

The Supreme Court hears only a fraction of federal cases filed each year. Federal judges are hearing most of the cases, with roughly 400,000 cases filed in federal trial courts a year. The high court hears only about 150 of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to review annually.

Most of the judges appointed to the federal bench have worked as prosecutors, corporate attorneys or both. A survey three years ago found more than 73% of sitting federal judges were men, and more than 80% were white, according to the Center for American Progress.

A diversity of professional expertise makes for a more fair and just bench, advocates say. Judges draw on their personal histories to help them weigh arguments and decide cases, and they also learn from each other. Public defenders often represent the indigent and the marginalized, those who often can’t afford their own attorneys.

“They represent the 80% percent of people in the criminal legal system too low-income to afford a lawyer,” said Emily Galvin-Almanza, a former public defender who founded the nonprofit Partners for Justice. “So when you put a public defender on the bench, you’re putting a person on who listens with a very different ear. You have a person on the bench with an experience of the realities of very, very disempowered people.”

Biden’s brief time as a public defender isn’t widely discussed, and it isn’t listed in his official biography on the White House website. He’s more prone to talk about his 36 years as a senator and his time as head of the Judiciary Committee, where he oversaw six Supreme Court nominations.

But the president has spoken at times about his brief time as a public defender before he became a U.S. senator at the age of 29. It’s informed some of his decisions in office, like directing federal grant money for public defense and expanding other federal efforts on public defense.

“Civil rights, the Vietnam War and President Nixon’s rampant abuse of power were the reasons I entered public life to begin with,” Biden said in a 2019 speech in South Carolina during the presidential campaign. “That’s why I had chosen at that time to leave a prestigious law firm that I had been hired by and become a public defender — because those people who needed the most help couldn’t afford to be defended in those days.”

In a 2007 memoir, he called the job “God’s work.”

The president promised during his campaign for president that he’d nominate a Black woman to the bench, and he spent his first year in office broadening his potential applicant pool through judicial appointments. Most Supreme Court justices have come from federal appeals courts, but it’s not a requirement. Among the current justices, only Justice Elena Kagan wasn’t a federal appeals court judge before joining.

Federal judges are often chosen from state courts, which also lack in diversity. But Biden’s very public push to diversify federal judges could have an impact on how judges in the states look, too.

“Neither state courts nor federal courts reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, or the diversity of the legal profession. Courts across the country are falling short,” said Alicia Bannon, the director of the Judiciary Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. “But we’re hoping that is slowly changing.”

Biden has promised a rigorous selection process for his Supreme Court nominee. His team, led by former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, is reviewing past writings, public remarks and decisions, learning the life stories of the candidates and interviewing them and people who know them. Background checks will be updated and candidates may be asked about their health. After all, it’s a lifetime appointment.

The goal is to provide the president with the utmost confidence in the eventual pick’s judicial philosophy, fitness for the court and preparation for the high-stakes confirmation fight. Interviewing potential candidates comes later, but Biden has already spoken to some of the women who may be under consideration back when they were being appointed to other courts.

Biden will also continue to seek the advice of lawmakers. He was to host Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats on Thursday, a White House official said.

Source: Biden seeking professional diversity in his judicial picks

Amid Slowdown, Immigration Is Driving U.S. Population Growth

Of note:

Overall, 2021 will go down as the year with the slowest population growth in U.S. history.

New census data shows why: Both components of growth — gains from immigration, and the number of births in excess of the number of deaths — have fallen sharply in recent years. In 2021, the rate of population growth fell to an unprecedented 0.1 percent.

Yet within these sluggish figures a new pattern is emerging. Immigration, even at reduced levels, is for the first time making up a majority of population growth.

In part this is because Americans are dying at higher rates and having fewer babies, trends accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic. But it’s also because there are signs that immigration is picking up again.

Even after four years of stringent controls on immigration imposed under former President Donald J. Trump, the overall share of Americans born in other countries is not only rising, but coming close to levels last seen in the late 19th century.

The numbers are not nearly what they once were. The latest report, from the Census Bureau’s population estimates program, showed a net gain of 244,000 new residents from immigration in 2021 — a far cry from the middle of the previous decade, when the bureau regularly attributed annual gains of one million or more to immigration.

Yet that drop-off pales in comparison to the slowdown in what demographers call “natural increase,” the excess of births over deaths. In 2021, that figure was 148,000, or one-tenth the gain that was normal a decade ago, and smaller than international migration for the first time ever.

As of December, immigrants represented 14.1 percent of the U.S. population, matching the peak of the decades-long immigration boom that began in the 1960s and approaching the record 14.8 percent seen in 1890, shortly before large numbers of Europeans began disembarking from vessels at Ellis Island.

The foreign-born population is increasingly concentrated among middle-age groups, with a large number of immigrants having lived in the United States for many years. About 1 in 5 Americans between the ages of 40 and 64 was born overseas. And two-thirds of foreign-born residents have been in the country more than a decade, the census data shows.

In that respect, the country’s demographics reflect the long-term effects of the huge levels of immigration it experienced during the 1970s and 1980s.

“We get so used to being around people who have been here for decades and navigate American society seamlessly that we almost forget they’re immigrants,” said Tomás Jiménez, a Stanford professor who researches immigration and assimilation.

The recent slowdown in immigration was an apparent result not only of the tougher immigration policies, but also measures taken in response to the Covid-19 health crisis. In the early months of 2020, the government sealed the borders with Mexico and Canada and limited international entries by air. The closure of U.S. consular offices around the globe derailed visa processing.

But the data suggests that tougher restrictions on the border may not have been the biggest factor in the slowdown. Many immigrants decided to leave the country. During the first years of Mr. Trump’s administration, the number of immigrants coming into the country held steady, while the number leaving increased, figures show.

Some data suggests that the pace of immigration has picked up lately. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported a surge in enforcement activity last year, and the Census Bureau’s monthly employment survey also detected an uptick in foreign-born respondents in late 2021.

The economic and political circumstances that compel people to leave their home countries have persisted, and demand for foreign workers of all skill levels remains brisk.

The newcomers since President Biden took office come from all over the globe, as the government has lifted the cap on refugees, welcomed thousands of families seeking asylum on the southwestern border and reopened the door to foreign workers on temporary visas.

Among them is Jeff Quetho, 28, of Haiti, who crossed the border with his 3-year-old son, hoping to build a more stable life; Param Kulkarni, 34, an Indian scientist who specializes in mental health technology and artificial intelligence, who recently settled in New York; and Feroza Darabi, 22, of Afghanistan, who arrived in Phoenix with her 13-year-old nephew, Ali.

“I am happy to be somewhere safe,” Ms. Darabi said recently during a break from an English class for refugees at Friendly House in Glendale, Az.

Ms. Darabi hopes she will be joined one day soon by family members who were unable to scramble onto the plane she and her nephew boarded out of Kabul. “What I want most now is to have my family next to me,” she said.

If immigration returns to even its relatively modest prepandemic pace, it is possible the share of Americans born overseas could reach the record 14.8 percent from 1890.

The current labor shortage has heightened calls for foreign workers, in fields as varied as restaurant service and nursing, to help fill vacancies.

“The pandemic offers a little taste of what we may be facing if demand is robust and we don’t have workers,” said Pia Orrenius, a senior economist who studies immigration at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “We will see price and wage inflation, and growth will be choked off.”

“Immigration is not going to make this problem go away, but it certainly could help,” Ms. Orrenius said.

If immigration had continued at a prepandemic pace, the economy would have two million additional foreign-born workers in occupations such as manual labor and computer science, according to a recent study by economists at the University of California, Davis.

While the pandemic is seen as contributing to the slowdown in new immigration, it may have also helped prop up the number of foreign-born residents since that number depends not just on how many immigrants arrive but also how many leave. Virus travel restrictions made it harder for immigrants to enter the United States, but they also made it less likely they would depart, said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at the Pew Research Center.

“During the pandemic, you couldn’t leave the country basically,” he said.

Some of the growth in the foreign-born population is related to a surge of migrants at the southwestern border that has been going on, to varying degrees, since 2014. But it is almost impossible to know the full extent. Not only is there no reliable accounting of how many people are entering the country illegally, it is not clear how many of them are being quickly expelled.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/zFsnv/9/

The decline in birthrate that has resulted in foreign-born people becoming an ever-larger share of the population is part of a worldwide demographic pattern. Historically, nations see a drop in birthrates as they become more prosperous, a trend that can undermine that prosperity.

When low fertility is coupled with low mortality, the result is a bulging population of seniors and relatively fewer workers to sustain them, a scenario faced by Japan and many European countries that then saw their economies shrink.

The movement of the baby boom generation out of the labor force amid a plummeting birthrate has put into sharper relief the need to reverse the decline in new immigration. This will be crucial, analysts say, despite the large numbers of immigrants already living in the country — soon those here legally will be drawing more from Social Security and Medicare.

The immigrants already here may provide part of the solution. Foreign-born residents typically account for a disproportionate share of all births because recent immigrant women are more likely than others to be in their prime childbearing years and to have more children.

Lower immigration from Mexico, traditionally the biggest source of new immigrants, has contributed to falling U.S. birthrates overall.

But it will take bold political moves to harness the economic benefits of the existing foreign-born population. Already, an estimated 11 million of them are undocumented, meaning they can work only as part of the underground economy. Mr. Biden took office with a pledge to legalize them but has failed to win bipartisan support for such a move in Congress.

He took steps to jump-start legal immigration, rescinding a proclamation by his predecessor banning the entry of foreigners on work visas.

Last month, his administration unveiled policies to attract international students and to extend the time that foreign graduates in science and technical fields can remain in the country to work, from one year to three years.

In December, the government announced that 20,000 seasonal guest worker visas would be added to the allotment of 33,000 for the winter to assist employers in landscaping, construction and hospitality, desperately in need of workers.

Yet Mr. Biden’s Republican opponents have consistently resisted large increases in new immigration, and the question of how the country moves forward is likely to be debated as campaigning picks up steam for this year’s congressional elections.

Source: Amid Slowdown, Immigration Is Driving U.S. Population Growth

Unlike Trump, Biden Plan Welcomes Immigrant Scientists And Engineers

Of note given likely impact on relative attractiveness of Canada compared to USA but degree not known:

Although Donald Trump said he favored “merit-based” immigration, his policy team never seemed to find high-skilled foreign nationals it wanted to let work in the United States. In contrast, the Biden administration has proposed new policies that take the opposite approach.

Announced January 21, 2022, the new Biden policies can be divided into four general areas. Each holds the potential for making America more welcoming for talented foreign-born individuals at a time when human capital and innovation have never been more valuable to a nation.

Improved National Interest Waivers For Employment-Based Immigrants: As reported earlier in an article previewing immigration in 2022, new guidance for “National Interest Waivers” in the employment-based second preference could be a significant improvement for many immigrants. “The USCIS [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities,” according to a Biden administration fact sheet describing the new policies. “This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers.”

The new guidance could expand the use of national interest waivers for immigrant entrepreneurs and potentially for a broader range of highly skilled individuals with expertise in science, engineering and other fields. The narrow interpretation in current USCIS guidance has frustrated immigrants since using such waivers allows foreign nationals to “self-petition.” That means (per USCIS) “they do not need an employer to sponsor them.” National interest waivers can also be a relief from the Department of Labor’s lengthy labor certification process. 

(See here for the USCIS policy manual update on national interest waivers.)MORE FOR YOUNATO’s Technology Innovation Initiatives Are Moving Into High GearAI 50 2021: America’s Most Promising Artificial Intelligence CompaniesImpossible Foods’ CEO Says Going Public Is ‘Inevitable.’ So Why Have Most Of 2021’s Food Listings Spoiled?

Updating O-1A Visas: “O-1A [are for] individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry),” according to USCIS. However, in the past, USCIS has adopted a narrow view of who is eligible for the visas. A Biden administration official said on background the new policy is expected to expand significantly the eligibility for O-1A visas in STEM fields. (See here for the USCIS policy manual update on O-1A visas.)

“In this update, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is clarifying how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as Ph.D. holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields,” according to the fact sheet. “The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.”

Dan Berger of Curran, Berger & Kludt thinks the new O-1A guidance will be helpful. “O-1 visas had become more difficult to obtain,” he said in an interview. “New guidance is helpful to clarify how the statutory criteria apply to STEM fields and the modern world. Many of the criteria were written before the internet age.”

Expanding Eligibility For STEM OPT: As discussed here, the Biden administration has expanded eligibility for STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows international students to gain practical experience for 12 months and an additional 24 months in a STEM field. Many international students would not come to America without OPT and the ability to work in their field, including the potential later to obtain H-1B status and an employment-based green card. 

In a Federal Register notice (January 21, 2022), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced, “The Secretary of Homeland Security is amending the DHS STEM Designated Degree Program List [for OPT] by adding 22 qualifying fields of study.” The fields include Cloud Computing, Anthrozoology, Climate Science, Mathematical Economics, Business Analytics, Data Visualization, Financial Analytics and others. (More details are available in the Federal Register notice.)

Expanded Programs For J-1 Exchange Visitors: The Biden administration has also proposed two expansions in the use of J-1 visas that may represent new routes to America for individuals in STEM fields. “The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is announcing an ‘Early Career STEM Research Initiative,’ to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses,” according to the administration’s fact sheet. “ECA is also announcing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months.” 

Without reviewing text on the new J-1 policies, Lynden Melmed, a partner at Berry Appleman & Leiden and former chief counsel for USCIS, said the changes could be quite positive. He also views the other policy proposals favorably.

“Immigration is often about fitting square pegs into round holes, and that won’t ever change,” he said in an interview. “But over the years, the policy guidance and procedures have become so inflexible that we risk losing employees who are working in developing fields critical to national security. The guidance on O-1 visas and foreign students restores some sanity to the process.”

“Expanding the number of STEM fields is long overdue and very welcome,” he said. “DHS took a careful approach when it first issued the STEM list. Today’s announcement is key because it signals the government will try to keep up with the rapidly changing academic environment.” 

Statistics on international students help illustrate why the Biden approach aimed at attracting international students makes more sense than the Trump administration’s restrictive policies. “At U.S. universities, foreign nationals account for 82% of the full-time graduate students in petroleum engineering, 74% in electrical engineering, 72% in computer and information sciences, 71% in industrial and manufacturing engineering, 70% in statistics” and over 50% in many other fields, according to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis. “At many U.S. universities, the data show it would be difficult to maintain important graduate programs without international students.”

The State Department and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services still need to improve processing, and Congress must enact many immigration reforms. Notable reforms would include increasing the number of employment-based green cards and H-1B visas and eliminating the per-country limit for employer-sponsored immigrants. 

It is easy to forget the Trump administration’s generally hostile policies toward foreign-born scientists and engineers. In 2020, Donald Trump blocked the entry to the United States of employment-based immigrants and H-1B visa holders via proclamations, and it took unfavorable court rulings on H-1B visas for USCIS finally to end four years of restrictive immigration policies against employers. Should the same policy team return to the White House in 2025, the goal on foreign talent likely won’t be to shut the barn door tighter but to dismantle the barn and close down the farm.

The Biden administration sees international education and innovation much differently from its predecessor, and the context from which these new policies have been proposed is clear. America is viewed as losing ground to China and other countries in the battle for talent. The latest proposals show the U.S. government is now attempting to join this battle and encourage talented foreign-born scientists and engineers to become part of the U.S. economy and the nation.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2022/01/21/unlike-trump-biden-plan-welcomes-immigrant-scientists-and-engineers/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&sh=3a3612d955f6

The Decline of Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

Useful stats. MPI had a very good webinar assessing the Biden administration immigration policy and program changes. Lot more happening through executive orders (close to 300 in the past year, about 100 related to reversing Trump administration measures) than the high level debates would indicate:

Legal immigration collapsed in the last year of the Trump administration. The number of green cards issued abroad were declining prior to the pandemic, partly for policy and other reasons, but the American government’s overreaction to COVID-19 caused immigration to collapse as we’ve detailed here, here, here, here, and here.

Since President Biden took office in January 2021, the recovery of legal immigration has been much slower than we anticipated. The new vaccine mandate for immigrants (as we’re seeing in other countries with the Novak Djokovic scandal), the remaining closure of many embassies and consulates that reduce interviews for visas and their subsequent issuance, the delayed release of extra visas approved by Congress, and additional haphazardly imposed travel restrictions have greatly reduced the scope of legal immigration.

Despite those restrictions, the number of legal immigrant visas issued abroad has partly recovered from a low of 697 (that’s not a typo) in May 2020 to 35,647 in November 2021 (Figure 1). That’s 16 percent below the average of 42,390 immigrant visas issued monthly from January 2017 through February 2020, during Trump’s presidency but prior to COVID-19. December 2021 and January 2022 will likely show lower numbers.

As bad as the numbers for immigrant visas are, the number of non‐​immigrant visas issued abroad every month is even worse. Non‐​immigrant visas are for students, temporary workers, tourists, and others who can temporarily travel to the United States or reside here for a specific time and purpose. Figure 2 shows that 40,939 were issued in May 2020, the low point of the series, down from a monthly average of 738,642 from January 2017 through February 2020 – a 95 percent decline. The numbers have since climbed to a paltry 391,022 in November 2021 – far shy of their pre‐​pandemic numbers.

The Biden administration needs to rapidly reverse this situation, recover the lost visas through legislation, and go even further or the U.S. economy will suffer long run drags on its growth.

Source: The Decline of Legal Immigration | Cato at Liberty Blog

2021 Might Be A Decisive Year For H-1B Visas

Significant, given possible effects on relative attractiveness of Canada to potential immigrants:

The Trump administration was hostile to high-skilled immigration, but the Biden administration may enact the most enduring policy changes to H-1B visas. And the changes might not be positive for employers. A series of decisions loom on regulations that would affect who can receive H-1B petitions, how much employers must pay H-1B professionals and much more.

The Big Picture: “H-1B visas are important because they generally represent the only practical way for high-skilled foreign nationals, including international students, to work long-term in the United Statesand have the chance to become employment-based immigrants and U.S. citizens,” as discussed in a recent Forbes article. “In short, without H-1B visas, nearly everyone from the founders of billion-dollar companies to the people responsible for the vaccines and medical care saving American lives would never have been in the United States.”

The number of H-1B visas is small for a country the size of the United States. The 85,000 annual H-1B limit—the 65,000 regular cap and the 20,000-exemption for H-1B visa holders with a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. university—comes to 0.05% of the U.S. labor force. Companies are allowed to file for only 85,000 new H-1B petitions in a year, and about two-thirds, or 56,000 a year, are in computer occupations. 

The U.S. job market is strong for individuals who work in computer occupations. The unemployment rate in math and computer occupationswas 2.5% in April 2021, below the 3%, lower than in January 2020 before the pandemic began. 

Today, there are well over 1 million active job vacancy postings in computer occupations, according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis of Emsi Job Posting Analytics. “There is not a fixed number of jobs, and people with high skills often create more jobs for people with complementary skills,” notes the NFAP analysis. “Still, even if one adopts a zero-sum approach, there are nearly 20 times more job vacancy postings in computer occupations than new H-1B petitions typically used by companies in computer occupations each year. There are also likely many more openings than publicly posted positions.”MORE FOR YOUFederal Judge Hears Arguments Against Trump’s H-1B Visa BanH-1B Visa Denials Continue To Mount For CompaniesCourt Hearing Shows Businesses Could Prevail Against H-1B Visa Rules

With regional Covid-19 bans still in place and many U.S. consulates either not operating or working in a limited capacity, visa backlogs, including for H-1B and L-1 visa, will continue to mount until the State Department commits to new policies. Jeffrey Gorsky, former Chief of the Legal Advisory Opinion section of the Visa Office in the U.S. Department of State, believes the State Department could become more creative with biometric intake, give visa processing a higher priority and conduct more interviews via video. He believes interviews via Zoom would meet the statutory definition of in-person interviews.

Due to Trump administration policies that U.S. courts found unlawful, H-1B denial rates reached 24% for initial employment and 12% for continuing employment in FY 2018 (compared to 6% and 3% in FY 2015). After USCIS agreed to a settlement with the ITServe Alliance that overturned years of restrictive policies, H-1B denial rates returned to pre-Trump levels (after costing companies millions of dollars). The Biden administration may remove some restrictions on H-1B visa holders that prevent them from starting businesses, according to the New York Times.

Still, the H-1B annual limit is low. Employers filed 308,000 H-1B registrations for cap selection for FY 2022, according to USCIS. That means over 72% of H-1B registrations for high-skilled foreign nationals were rejected even before an adjudicator evaluated the application.

The economic literature shows loosening restrictions on H-1B visas would benefit the U.S economy and American workers. A study by economists Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, Chad Sparber and Angie Marek Zeitlin found, “The number of jobs for U.S.-born workers in computer-related industries would have grown at least 55% faster between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, if not for the denial of so many applications in the recent H-1B visa lotteries.”

Britta Glennon, an assistant professor at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, found in her research that H-1B restrictions push technology-related jobs out of the United States: “[A]ny policies that are motivated by concerns about the loss of native jobs should consider that policies aimed at reducing immigration have the unintended consequence of encouraging firms to offshore jobs abroad.”

Some policymakers argue America needs even more restrictive laws and rules to block the hiring of foreign-born scientists and engineers. As discussed below, the Biden administration will soon decide on a series of restrictions that could produce significant changes in H-1B visa policy.

Rule Would Make it Less Likely International Students Will Get H-1B Petitions: Before Donald Trump left office, his administration finalized a regulation that would end the H-1B lottery and replace it with a system that awards H-1B petitions by highest to lowest salary level. Many attorneys consider the regulation to be unlawful, and there are pending lawsuits against the rule. Instead of taking steps to rescind the rule, the Biden administration only delayed the regulation until next year’s H-1B cap selection.

In addition to questions of legality, the rule finalized by the Trump administration would fulfill a long-standing goal of Trump White House adviser Stephen Miller and his allies to make it more difficult for international students to obtain an H-1B petition, which would discourage many students from coming to America in the first place.

International students are disadvantaged under the rule because choosing H-1B petitions by salary level favors individuals with the most experience in the labor market over those with the least experience. “The National Foundation for American Policy found that an international student may be 54% more likely to get an H-1B petition under the current H-1B lottery system than under the Trump administration’s regulation that would end the H-1B lottery,” according to an NFAP analysis of actual cases of recent international students and filings for H-1B petitions. “The data demonstrate the new regulation would have a significant negative effect on the ability of international students to gain an H-1B petition.”

“The law firm Curran, Berger & Kludt provided NFAP with 170 cases of F-1 students with applications for H-1B cap selection for FY 2018, FY 2019, FY 2020 and FY 2021,” according to NFAP. “Under the current system that randomly selects H-1B petitions, 60% of the F-1 students were chosen through the H-1B lottery. However, the law firm provided information on the pay levels (Level 1 through 4) for the students’ H-1B applications, and NFAP found if the new regulation had been in effect, only 39% of the students’ H-1B petitions would have been selected.” Education organizations had warned the Trump administration’s rule would harm international students and make studying in America less attractive.

Rule to Force Employers to Pay H-1B Visa Holders and Employment-Based Green Card Applicants Well Above Market Wages: Under a Department of Labor (DOL) rule, published in the final days of the Trump administration, “employers must pay 23% to 41% higher salaries than under the current system across a range of occupations if they want to employ high-skilled foreign nationals in America,” according to a National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) analysis. https://embedly.forbes.com/widgets/media.html?src=https%3A%2F%2Fdatawrapper.dwcdn.net%2FUsMsI%2F1%2F&display_name=Datawrapper&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdatawrapper.dwcdn.net%2FUsMsI%2F1%2F&key=3ce26dc7e3454db5820ba084d28b4935&type=text%2Fhtml&schema=dwcdn

The rule would apply to H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants and could have a devastating impact on both. H-1B visa holders waiting in the green cards backlog might be forced to leave the country if an employer could not extend their H-1B status at the new, much higher required salary level.

There is no evidence H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants as a group are underpaid relative to native-born professionals. Numerous economic studies have found high-skilled foreign nationals, on balance, earn more than their native-born counterparts. For example, Andrew Chamberlain, the chief economist at Glassdoor, found, “Across the 10 cities and roughly 100 jobs we examined, salaries for foreign H-1B workers are about 2.8% higher than comparable U.S. salaries on Glassdoor.” A recent study by Utah State University economist Omid Bagheri finds a larger wage premium for high-skilled foreign nationals.

The Biden administration published a notice of an agency action to delay the DOL rule until November 14, 2022. At the same time, the administration requested information from the public on data sources for calculating the prevailing wage.

Three courts blocked the rule when it was published as “interim final” in October 2020. On January 14, 2021, the Trump administration published a final rule that was only slightly modified from the original and carried the same aim—to price H-1B visa holders and employment-based immigrants out of the U.S. labor market. “The revisions to the rule don’t change the fact that it still fails to do what the law requires—to reflect the actual, prevailing wage for workers in that geographical area doing similar work,” said Kevin Miner, a partner at Fragomen. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and allied business groups and education organizations filed an amended complaint that argues the regulation to end the H-1B lottery is unlawful and continued its lawsuit to end the Department of Labor wage regulation.

New Regulation on Work at Third-Party Sites: “USCIS is still aiming to have a regulation in place by FY23 cap season to restrict use of the H-1B category by outsourcing companies by changing the ‘employer-employee relationship’ definition,” according to Berry Appleman & Leiden. Peter Bendor-Samuel, founder and CEO of Everest Group, argues access to talent is key for competitiveness as information technology services companies attempt to build digital platforms for U.S. companies. “Almost every major U.S. firm is building some form of digital platform so it can enhance its competitive position both domestically and internationally,” he said. “This is probably the most important thing these firms are doing and success will define both company and global success as we move into the future.”

The mistaken premise of nearly all restrictions on high-skilled immigration is that foreign-born scientists and engineers offer no value to America or U.S. companies except for a willingness to work for less money. Some policymakers believe that people born in other countries possess inferior abilities to people born in the United States—hence the belief companies must pay them lower salaries—and incorrectly assume that only a fixed number of jobs exist in the U.S. economy. The Biden administration has an opportunity to adopt a more forward-looking policy.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stuartanderson/2021/06/02/2021-might-be-a-decisive-year-for-h-1b-visas/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=follow&cdlcid=5e4bc7f55b099ce02faa6b40&sh=7932dc0018df

International students warming to US after Biden victory

We shall see how this affects Canada’s relative position but the largest source country for international students is also India as is the case in the US survey. Certainly the Trump administration did result in increased interest in studying and working in Canada:

International students’ perceptions of the United States as a study destination have significantly improved following the presidential election win by Joe Biden, according to new research by IDP Connect. 

The improved perceptions of the US among students surveyed in early 2021 could impact on the pulling power of rival destination countries Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, the research suggests. 

A survey of more than 800 prospective international students in more than 40 countries who are interested in studying in the US – albeit with more than half of respondents based in India – has found that more than three quarters (76%) have improved perceptions of the US since the 2020 presidential election, with 67% stating they are now more likely to study there. 

“I really hope that the result of the election helps students like me to move to America and pursue our dreams,” said one respondent.

Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, said US higher education institutions should review their marketing and recruitment programmes to take full advantage of the change in perceptions. 

“Since the election in November 2020, we’ve seen higher search activity for the US, with the US now overtaking the UK in regard to international student search volumes.” 

He said: “US universities, colleges and education institutions should be looking at their recruitment strategies and practices to ensure they capture this momentum and support students in their decision-making process.”

When asked how nine key factors would be affected by the Biden administration, respondents expected all to improve, with the welfare of international students, safety of its citizens and visitors, and post-study work visa policies perceived to see the most improvements. 

Furthermore, the majority of students (69%) expected the new presidential administration would have a positive effect on their home country. 

As the students surveyed were at the early stages of their journey, many indicated they are still considering other destinations. Of those surveyed, half (50%) were also considering Canada, while 41% were considering the UK, just over a quarter (28%) were considering Australia and 13% were considering New Zealand as their study destination in addition to the US. 

Increased competition

This suggests that rising demand for study places in the US could mean increased competition for market share among these rival destination countries, the research notes.

The survey also showed that students from Africa were more likely to be exploring their study options in the US and Canada, while Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian students tended to look at the US and UK, IDP Connect said. The country from which students had the most improved perception of the US was Kenya.

A prospective graduate student from Nigeria said: “With this new administration, the United States will favour citizens of my country to study appropriately with due consideration.”

Emmett said the findings of the research are a reminder that students are tuned into global political discussions. 

“Of the students who stated they have a high awareness of US politics, 86% reported a better perception following the election,” Emmett said. 

Respondents were asked to rate how they feel the new administration would affect nine key factors on a scale of 0-10, with 0 representing ‘will become much worse’ and 10 representing ‘will become much better’. Overall, students expect all nine factors to improve. 

This list was topped by ‘welfare of international students’ (7.52), followed by ‘safety of citizens and visitors’ (7.48), ‘post-study work visa policies’ (7.32), ‘economic stability of the US’ (7.28), ‘perceptions of the US overseas’ (7.24), ‘response to coronavirus’ (7.17), ‘political stability of the US’ (7.11), ‘management of social issues, eg community divisions’ (7.10) and ‘travel restriction policies’ (6.94).

Among respondents, 13% indicated they had high awareness of US politics (‘I follow US politics closely’), compared with moderate awareness (34%), low awareness (42%) and no awareness (‘I do not follow US politics’) (11%). 

Biden’s first steps

On his first day in office, Biden revoked former president Donald Trump’s travel bans blocking people from seven mostly Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States, a critical first step towards rebuilding the reputation of US higher education in a global context.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education (ACE), in late November wrote to then President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris on behalf of 43 US university associations calling on them to move to ensure that American colleges and universities are “once again, the destination of choice for the world’s best international students and scholars”.

They urged Biden to withdraw Trump administration proposals to limit international students’ duration of stay and make it harder and costlier to obtain H-1B visas, which provide a pathway for foreign-born researchers to stay in the US on a long-term basis.

They also urged him to make it clear that the Optional Practical Training programme would remain in place. 

Biden has since proposed across the board changes to US immigration laws, including a step to make it easier for international graduate students with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the US by exempting them from immigrant visa caps. 

The draft immigration bill also includes permission for ‘dual intent’, which would mean student visa applicants no longer have to promise that they intend to leave the US when they finish their studies. Under the current single intent requirement, nine in 10 visa denials – close to a quarter of all applications – relate to a failure to convince officials that they solely intend to come and study and then leave.

However, it is not clear yet if the bill could garner enough political support.

Emmett said: “While the new administration has a more welcoming stance towards international students than the predecessor, it will be interesting to see if student perceptions of the US as a study destination continue to improve over the long term.”

Motivations for study in US

When asked why they are interested in studying in the US, the top motivation among respondents was ‘quality of teaching compared to my home country’ (64%), ‘modern, progressive, dynamic’ (59%), ‘institution or university of choice is located there’ (46%), ‘availability of part-time work’ (43%), ‘multicultural’ (33%), ‘attractive climate, weather, environment’ (30%), ‘safe country’ (29%), ‘Optional Practical Training or post-study work programme’ (26%), ‘affordable place to live and study’ (18%) and ‘family or friends recommended’ (14%). 

Among those who responded, 51% were interested in graduate programmes, 30% in undergraduate programmes and 19% in other (non-degree) programmes. Their expected start date of studying abroad was April to July 2021 (19%), August to October 2021 (38%), January to March 2022 (12%), April to July 2022 (6%), August to October 2022 (15%) and ‘beyond 2022’ (8%).

The survey results come with the caveat that they are dominated by views of students in India, one of the largest source countries for international students in the US. A majority and by far the largest group of respondents were located in India (483), followed by Kenya (74), Bangladesh (74), Indonesia (50), Egypt (29), Pakistan (27), Nepal (22), Philippines (22), Vietnam (16) and Cambodia (15). 

In 2019-20 the top five source countries for the more than one million international students in the US were: China, 372,532 students (34.6%); India, 193,124 (18%); South Korea, 49,809 (4.6%); Saudi Arabia, 30,957 (2.9%); and Canada, 25,992 (2.4%), according to datafrom the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20210303133839873

Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

Useful data and analysis, along with practical recommendations to streamline processes:

President Joe Biden rescinded Donald Trump’s presidential proclamation banning new immigrant visas for most new legal permanent residents coming from abroad. Trump justified the ban based on old, disproven economic protectionist arguments. He claimed immigrants would take jobs. During his campaign and in this proclamation, President Biden rejected this idea. Yet incongruously, he’s keeping an identical ban on temporary work visa holders.

The State Department issued nearly 290,000 fewer immigrant visas in the categories that the ban targeted during the year that it was in effect. If they are not from a country on which Biden has imposed a countrywide entry ban—mostly Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran—these immigrants will now be able to immigrate to the United States. This is great news for them and for the Americans with whom they plan to associate.

Altogether, the banned categories saw a 90 percent decline in visa issuances over the last year. The family‐​sponsored categories saw an average decline of 94 percent, while employees of U.S. businesses were least affected (partly due to a favorable court decision that exempted employees of members of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce). 83 percent of the banned immigrants were family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens were exempt from the ban, but they also saw a decline in the number of visas issued due to the travel restrictions. According to a government filing this month, the State Department had nearly 473,000 documentarily qualified family‐​based immigrant visa applicants—presumably some of these cases will ultimately turn into denials, but this will be a huge undertaking for the consulates to process.

Four ideas to help with this backlog (mostly borrowed from our one‐​time Cato author David Kubat):

  1. The government should use “parole‐​in‐​place” authority to waive the requirement to travel to consulate abroad for certain applicants who would otherwise be eligible to adjust in the United States if not for the fact that they initially entered without inspection (illegally).
  2. It should adjudicate applications for waivers on grounds of inadmissibility before conducting the interview to save time and streamline the process. Under the current process, the State Department waits until after they’ve taken your fingerprints, medical evaluation, and other documents and then get denied. Only then do you restart the many months‐​long process of trying again.
  3. It should allow for remote or virtual interviews to speed the interview process. Remote immigration court hearings are already happening.
  4. It should waive as many interviews as possible for applicants with no red flags and a history of travel to the United States.

As Figure 1 shows, the number of immigrant visas had already declined by more than a quarter before the pandemic. This means that even without the visa bans, the new administration will have to go further to rescind the numerous restrictions on legal immigration that led to that decline.

Of course, the other major visa ban—on the most common nonimmigrant work visa categories for skilled and seasonal nonagricultural workers—is still in effect. President Biden states in his order revoking the immigrant visa ban, “The suspension of entry…. does not advance the interests of the United States. To the contrary, it harms the United States including…. industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.” These lines apply just as much to the nonimmigrant visa ban, yet Biden has chosen to keep it.

The nonimmigrant visa ban and immigrant visa backlog are just two of the numerous issues that Biden will have to address to get the legal immigration system back to what it was pre‐​Trump. There are also country‐​specific entry bans on Europe, South Africa, Brazil, China, and Iran that lack any health basis. The public charge rule to keep out low‐​income immigrants is also still in force. USCIS has not reinstated its prior deference memo and so is still relitigating past approved petitions and applications in order to increase denials. The immigration forms still contain the bogus, vague, time‐​consuming, and expensive “extreme vetting” questions based on a faulty reading of the data on vetting failures. At the border, Border Patrol is still “expelling” asylum seekers under a political CDC order. The immigration courts and asylum process generally is still in chaos.

With this action, the president makes his first real attempt to reinstate the system to how it once was, but he’s not even 10 percent of the way there. Still, it’s a great first step.

Source: Biden Rescinds Immigrant Visa Ban, Keeps Worker Ban: Who Benefits?

Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test

Expected:

The Department of Homeland Security is discarding a new citizenship test that just went into effect in December, reverting back to an older version after the Trump Administration’s test was blasted for allegedly containing conservative biases.

A new citizenship test, which took effect on December 1, upped the question pool for naturalization candidates from 100 to 128 questions and required 12 out of 20 questions randomly assigned to be answered correctly, up from 6 out of 10.

The test was also blasted for its content, with five questions in the pool referring to the Federalist Papers—a favorite topic among conservatives—with only two questions about the civil rights movement and three about women’s suffrage, for example.

Those who file for naturalization after March 1 will be given the 2008 test the Biden Administration is reverting to, while those who filed between December 1 and March 1 will be given the option of taking either the 2020 or 2008 version.

BIG NUMBER

Around 2,500. That’s how many comments from the public U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received about the 2020 changes.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

“Multiple commenters noted that there was little advance notice before implementation of the 2020 civics test, which raised concerns about limited time for study and preparation of training materials and resources,” the Department of Homeland Security said in its policy change announcement Monday.

KEY BACKGROUND

The Trump Administration was known for its tough stance against immigration into the U.S., whether the immigration was legal or not. One of Trump’s signature campaign promises was the construction of a wall along the southern border with Mexico, which was never completed, and his administration became notorious for unwavering enforcement of family separation policies aimed at combating illegal immigration. The Trump Administration also curbed legal access for noncitizens to work in the U.S., tightening the rules around H-1B visas. The Administration made numerous policy changes committed to enforcing what it touted as traditional American values, but what critics denounced as pushing conservative views. One of Trump’s final acts was creating the 1776 Commission to promote “patriotic education” in schools, which was almost immediately zapped by President Joe Biden.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Democrats have proposed an immigration bill that could give around 11 million undocumented immigrants U.S. citizenship through an eight-year process, but the bill faces a difficult path of passing through the 50-50 Senate.

Source: Biden DHS Scraps Trump Administration’s Longer, More Difficult Citizenship Test