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The first week: Executive orders focused on immigration

  January 26, 2021

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It has been a week since the inauguration of President Biden, and we are seeing positive signs of change in immigration policies. A subset of the new President’s executive orders began the effort to overturn more than 400 actions issued by the previous administration that undermined established pathways for legal immigration, naturalization, and humanitarian refuge.

Here is a brief recap of some of the notable orders issued in the new President’s first days in office:

  • President Biden directed the acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary to take all steps necessary to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Some members of the IINE community are DACA recipients, and they welcome this relief.
  • One order signed by the new President revoked previous actions banning immigration by people from predominantly Muslim countries including Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, and other nations. The action reverses the so-called “Muslim Ban” and gives hope to many people we have resettled from these countries who are anxious to bring their children, parents, and siblings to the United States.
  • Another order redefines DHS enforcement priorities for undocumented residents and allows a review of previous enforcement and deportation rules, a step in the right direction towards a more humane way to treat people who live, work, have families, and pay taxes in the U.S.
  • The President directed the State and Homeland Security departments to reinstate the Deferred Enforced Departure program for Liberians until June of 2022, allowing them to obtain work authorization and take other steps to adjust their legal status in the U.S. This is good news, and we encourage those impacted to contact our Immigration Legal Services program for assistance.

Later this week, we expect to see additional executive orders focused on immigration.

We look forward to seeing the progress of the Biden administration’s new comprehensive immigration bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which aims to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the United States without legal status. If you are interested in learning more, a fact sheet is available here. This is a time for bipartisan consensus on common sense immigration reform.

For more than 100 years, IINE has been committed to helping refugees and immigrants in New England restart their lives and, in doing so, contribute to our region’s growth and prosperity. It will not be easy to undo the lasting, human impact of the past four years during which so many families suffered from policies that forced separation, deportation, and loss of sanctuary. Reconstituting a more humane immigration system is a long-term project that requires sustained political will and the ongoing engagement of IINE’s supporters and others who care deeply about our nation’s historic commitment to welcoming and embracing people from around the world.

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