According to Migration Policy Institute analyst Jessica Bolter, the “really dramatic changes” are seen in interior enforcement and how the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) has reprioritized arrests to focus on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to national security or public safety.
“These are changes that are affecting how the immigrant population in the U.S. lives their day-to-day life,” Bolter said. “The Biden administration has put into place new ICE enforcement priorities that narrow the population who are targeted for arrest or removal. This makes the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants who are living in the U.S. deprioritized for enforcement.”
The Biden administration has also acted to prevent ICE from making arrests at courthouses and limited the detention of pregnant women.
“And probably one of the most significant steps that they’ve taken in the enforcement arena is ending mass worksite enforcement operations,” Bolter added.
After more than a year of closures, U.S. embassies and consulates around the world have reopened for immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments. Yet, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, such services remain limited.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for America’s naturalization system, has made changes under Biden.
The agency replaced the word “alien”—seen by some as pejorative—with “noncitizen” or “undocumented noncitizen” in its publications and pledged to make immigration forms “more accurate, timely, and easier to understand.”
Immigration legislation stalled
On his first day in office, President Biden unveiled sweeping immigration reform legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which included an 8-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
The bill has yet to be voted on by either the House or Senate and is viewed as all but dead on Capitol Hill.
Separately, Senate Democrats have repeatedly sought to add immigration reform elements to a massive social safety net spending bill. In each instance, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that immigration measures do not belong in spending bills that can pass the chamber with a simple majority vote.
As a result, immigration reform legislation will need three-fifth majority backing to advance in the 100-member Senate where Democratic caucus has only 50 members and Republicans are united in opposition to Democrats’ reform proposals.
Democrats now hope to pass the legislation early in 2022.