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Year in Review: Immigration in 2021

Immigration laws and reforms are constantly in flux as they are updated, changed, and/or challenged. Below we will highlight key immigration updates from this past year.

The Biden Administration’s Proposed Immigration Reforms

At the beginning of the year, President Biden and his administration shared their immigration reform proposal, which included provisions allowing for:

  • Certain undocumented people to apply for temporary legal status
  • People to be eligible to self-petition for LPR status (after 5 years in temporary status)
  • People to be eligible to apply for citizenship 9after 3 years as an LPR)
  • And more

You can read our blog, “Immigration Reform May Be On The Way” for more specifics on these initial proposed reforms.

Later in the year, President Build also introduced his Build Back Better framework, which seeks to invest in and reform climate change issues, childcare and caregiving accessibility, healthcare, and immigration. Key immigration reform provisions included in this framework include:

  • Updating the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to allow document and undocumented foreign nationals to apply to adjust their status if they pay a supplemental fee of $1,500 and submit to a background check and medical exam.
  • Allowing for the collection of supplemental fees with E, H1-B, L, O, and P petitions, applications to change or extend non-immigration status, employment authorization applications, approval of non-immigration visas, and student-visa holders
  • Increasing the budget that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will receive
  • Allowing immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before 2011 to be eligible to apply for five-year renewable employment authorization

Democrats Try & Fail to Get Immigration Reforms to Pass Before the New Year

The Build Back better framework was included in the Democrat’s social spending plan, and the plan in its entirety costs trillions of dollars. Democrats planned to have their spending plan passed by Christmas 2021 but getting the immigration reforms through Congress proved complicated.

Because they have a one-seat majority, Democrats tried to pass the bill through reconciliation. The reconciliation process involves passing legislation through Senate with a majority vote.

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is tasked with determining if reconciliation is possible as reconciliation methods should relate to the budget. She has denied the bill’s reforms three times, claiming that the reforms will affect more than just the budget.

While President Biden and Democrats haven’t given up on their reforms, many immigration advocates believe that the reforms will not get passed. Democrats can override MacDonough, but 2022 is an election year and attention may shift to voting rights reforms.

DACA Jeopardized by Texas Ruling But Biden Administration Fights Back

In July 2021, a Texas ruling jeopardized Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by ruling the program unlawful. While the ruling did not affect current DACA recipients, new applications were not able to be approved as the ruling prohibited this.

To save DACA, the Biden Administration appealed the decision, and the appeal was brought to a more conservative court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The administration (in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) proposed new regulations that would codify the program. The appeal is still pending, and the regulations have yet to be finalized.

The fight to protect Dreamers remains ongoing; you can read our blog for updates.

“Remain in Mexico” Policy Reinstated

At the beginning of his term, President Biden began to phase out the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the “Remain in Mexico” policy. This policy forced US asylum-seekers to return to Mexico as they await their immigration hearing. However, Texas and Missouri filed a lawsuit against the administration to have the policy reinstated, and the courts ruled in favor of Texas/Missouri.

It is important to note that the administration has asked that the Supreme Court review the initial ruling. However, the policy has gone back into effect (starting in December 2021).

Designated Temporary Protected Status

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is given to eligible nationals of designated countries because of unsafe conditions that would prohibit them from returning to their country. After filing for and receiving TPS, people are protected from being detained based on their immigration status and being deported. They can also apply for employment authorization.

The Biden administration extended protection to Venezuelans in the United States who:

  • Arrived in the U.S. before March 8, 2021
  • Do not have any felony convictions
  • Do not have more than one misdemeanor conviction
  • Did not leave the U.S. since their arrival

At the end of the year, actions were taken to seek TPS designation for Cameroon because of ongoing conflicts and humanitarian concerns. However, designation has still not been awarded. 

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions stopped millions, from Europe, Canada, Mexico, China, and Brazil, from entering the country, which negatively affected tourism and the economy. However, the travel restrictions were lifted for fully vaccinated travelers beginning November 8th, 2021. Those entering the U.S. will be asked their vaccination status and will need to have verifiable proof of vaccination, but they do not have to quarantine.

Reach Out to Our Firm for Help

At the Law Office of Kelli Y. Allen, PLLC, we treat our clients like family, which is why we go the extra mile and aren’t afraid to think outside of the box. Our immigration attorneys are equipped to help you or a loved one with immigration matters, including:

  • Appeals
  • Asylum
  • DACA
  • Family-based visas
  • Green cards (immigrant visas)
  • Naturalization
  • Non-immigrant visas
  • Removal defenses

While you may be dealing with a lot of uncertainty and/or anxiety, you can trust our legal team to stay abreast of the latest immigration news and support you as you navigate the complex legal system. To schedule your initial consultation, reach out to us online or call (704) 870-0340.

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