Biden wants to lift Trump’s immigrant and work visa limits in the pandemic, the top advisor says

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President Biden plans to lift tough restrictions on legal immigration, which former President Donald Trump said was necessary to protect U.S. workers during the coronavirus-triggered economic recession, according to a senior White House official.

Mr Biden plans to sign an executive order repealing the proclamation suspending certain immigrant and work visas, Esther Olavarria told US mayors over the weekend. This is evident from a recording of the virtual meeting shared with CBS News. Olavarria is the deputy director of the White House Home Affairs Council and one of the president’s top immigration advisors.

The imminent order, Olavarria said, “would repeal the Trump proclamations banning the admission of immigrants and non-immigrants who were viewed as either a financial burden on our health system or a risk to US labor markets.”

“This was a policy that ignored the decades and centuries of contributions that immigrants have made to our economy, to our society, to our culture,” said Olavarria during the 89th winter meeting of the US Mayors’ Conference. “So we would lift this policy and go back to a country that welcomes immigrants and recognizes their contributions.”

It is unclear when Mr Biden will sign the proclamation, but his plans to take multiple immigration measures on Friday were delayed. The White House made no comment.

Biden
President Biden will deliver a health care speech in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Thursday, January 28, 2021.

Evan Vucci / AP


Olavarria’s remarks are the first indication of the Biden government’s views on visa restrictions. During the campaign and transition, Mr Biden did not address the policy, nor did his advisors undertake to withdraw it.

Less than a month before Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump took office ordered a three-month extension of the restrictions, first enacted in April 2020 as a ban on some potential immigrants and extended in June to also suspend several temporary work visas such as the H-1B program.

Mr Trump’s proclamation, which currently expires on March 31, prohibits some immigrant visas from being issued to anyone wishing to move permanently to the US through green card petitions from their US family members or potential employers.

Spouses and children aged 21 and under of U.S. citizens are not subject to the visa restrictions, which include some healthcare workers battling the pandemic and wealthy immigrants who volunteer to invest more than $ 1 million in U.S. projects , except.

Mr Trump’s proclamation also frozen the diversity visa lottery, a program that allows people from under-represented countries, many of them in Africa, to move to the US. In September, a federal judge ordered the government to issue visas to more than 9,000 potential immigrants who won the lottery last year but are still banned from entering the United States under the proclamation.

The restrictions have also stopped the issuance of several temporary visas used by people working in the US, including the H-1B program, popular in the technology sector, and H-2B visas for non-agricultural seasonal workers. Cultural exchange J-1 visas for au pairs and other short-term workers; Visas for spouses of H-1B and H-2B holders; and L visas for companies to relocate employees to the US have also been restricted.

A court ruling in October currently bans the government from applying visa restrictions to workers sponsored by several large US companies.

Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the bipartisan Migration Policy Institute, said Trump’s pandemic-era visa restrictions had “some staying power” because they were enacted for economic reasons. While she believes the limits will not benefit U.S. workers, Pierce predicted that lifting them will result in some setback.

Convincing some of the US population that restrictions need to be lifted will not be an easy task, Pierce said, citing the current unemployment rate of 6.7%.

“The economic crisis is still here and it’s a big problem for the United States,” Pierce told CBS News. “Biden will have to provide reasons as to why he feels it is right to overturn these proclamations despite their alleged benefits to the US economy.”

Pierce’s group estimates that between April and November 2020, more than 8,000 green card petitions were blocked due to Mr. Trump’s restrictions.

Olavarria said Mr Biden will also repeal a proclamation issued by Mr Trump in October 2019 to allow the government to refuse visa applications from immigrants who it finds unable to pay for health insurance or medical expenses in the country USA cover.

After reviewing expected executive actions from CBS News, Mr. Biden plans to sign an additional policy instructing officials to review the “public fee” rules that allow consular and immigration officers to accept green card applications from applicants and visas refuse to rely on or risk relying on public support such as food stamps.

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