On January 20, 2021, President Biden announced the US Citizenship Act of 2021 memorializing his commitment to modernize the US immigration system. On February 18, 2021, Senator Bob Mendez and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez introduced the bill to the Senate and House (respectively). If passed, it would create the largest legalization program in US history. This page provides an overview of the act’s provisions.
President Joseph R. Biden Jr. set forth an ambitious immigration agenda in the early days of the Biden-Harris administration, committing both to reverse harmful policies implemented by the Trump administration and to revitalize the US immigration system more broadly. In his first 100 days in office, President Biden articulated his immigration and refugee protection goals and reversed many of his predecessor’s policies in a series of executive actions. He also raised the refugee admissions cap for FY 2021 and endorsed the US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would represent the most sweeping immigration reform legislation in decades and create the largest legalization program in US history. President Biden’s executive actions address the situation at the southern border, root causes of irregular migration from Central America, impacts of climate change on migration, COVID-19 travel restrictions, and fortification of existing legal immigration pathways, as well as commitments to create new ones.
This paper highlights the importance of legal orientation, screening, and representation to the US immigration system. It proposes that a new administration facilitate legal representation in order to establish a fairer and more efficient removal adjudication system and to place more immigrants on a path to permanent residence and citizenship. As is well-documented, legal assistance can:
- Improve the ability of immigrants to identify and articulate their claims in removal proceedings and produce better-informed case outcomes.
- Increase the efficiency and contribute to the integrity of the removal adjudication system.
- Lead to better-prepared applications for immigration benefits, and thus a more just and efficient legal immigration system.
- Place more non-citizens on a path to permanent residence and naturalization by identifying their potential eligibility for immigration benefits or relief, and, in some cases, their existing US citizenship.
Legal representation and expertise can also contribute to resolving some of the substantial problems that afflict the US immigration system, such as lengthy court and asylum backlogs. In addition, it can identify and help to correct legal and factual errors by immigration adjudicators, and abuses by enforcement officers and private contractors.
The paper’s first section describes federal legal orientation and assistance programs for non-citizens in removal proceedings. The second section discusses the need for large-scale legal screening and representation of US undocumented residents, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries. Its third section examines the proliferation of universal representation programs—supported by states, localities, and private funders—for non-citizens in removal proceedings before an immigration judge, and in summary removal processes administered by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The paper concludes with a series of administrative measures that a new administration could take in its first year to strengthen and expand legal representation. It also outlines longer-term policy recommendations that would require legislation.
We are pleased that the Supreme Court reversed the termination of DACA and found that the way it was done was “arbitrary and capricious.”
This episode of CMSOnAir features an interview with Anna Gallagher, the executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC). She explains how CLINIC supports lawyers across the country as they adapt to the fast-paced policy changes of the current administration. She also discusses her concerns about access to asylum on the US-Mexico border and CLINIC’s Estamos Unidos Asylum Project in Ciudad Juarez — a response to the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico” program.
This article examines presidential immigration policy making through executive orders (EOs) and proclamations. It finds that Donald Trump’s overall volume of EOs has been remarkably similar to that of other presidents, while his number of proclamations has been relatively high. However, his immigration-related EOs and proclamations diverge from those of his predecessors in several ways. Of the 56 immigration-related EOs and 64 proclamations issued since 1945, one percent of all EOs and proclamations have been immigration related, compared to eight percent of Trump’s EOs and 2.4 percent of Trump’s proclamations. In a sharp departure from previous presidents, a greater share of Trump’s EOs and proclamations have been substantive policy-making documents intended to restrict admissions of legal immigrants and increase enforcement along the border and in the interior of the United States. This article explores Trump’s unorthodox use of executive tools to make immigration policy, circumventing Congress and even members of his own administration. It recommends that Congress reassert its power over US immigration law and policy.
This paper evaluates the purpose and effectiveness of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) statute and identifies inadequacies in the TPS regime and related protection gaps in the US asylum system. It argues that TPS has not proven to be an effective mechanism for the United States to protect foreigners from generalized conditions of danger in their home countries. It calls for changing the US protection regime to make it more responsive to the risks many asylum seekers actually face by creating a broader “complementary protection” standard and a more effective procedure for assessing individual protection claims, while reserving “temporary protection” for rare situations of mass influx that overwhelm the government’s capacity to process individual asylum claims. Considering alternative models for complementary protection from other jurisdictions, this article proposes that the United States adopt an individualized complementary protection standard for arriving asylum seekers who are not able to meet the 1951 Refugee Convention standard but who would face a serious threat to life or physical integrity if returned because of a real risk of (1) cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; (2) violence; or (3) exceptional situations, for which there is no adequate domestic remedy.
Drawing on qualitative interviews that are complemented by the analysis of government policy documents, this study examines statelessness in Ghana. It addresses a range of policy, legal, institutional, administrative, and other politico-socioeconomic matters attendant to the concept. The study defines statelessness in its strict legal sense. It recognizes populations at risk of statelessness that may be restricted from benefiting from the protection and privileges of their host state. Persons identified by the study as stateless or at risk of statelessness include persons from traditionally nomadic migratory communities, former refugees, persons residing in border communities, members of Zongo communities, trafficked persons, and those affected by gaps in previous constitutions. The study also identifies the consequences of statelessness, including lack of access to healthcare, education, justice, and work. The study offers several recommendations to prevent and reduce statelessness in Ghana.
This report describes a unique methodology to produce estimates and set forth the characteristics of US residents who are potentially stateless or potentially at risk of statelessness. It also lifts up the voices and challenges of stateless persons, and outlines steps to reduce statelessness and to safeguard the rights of stateless persons in the United States.
As part of the study, CMS developed extensive, well-documented profiles of non-US citizen residents who are potentially stateless or potentially at risk of statelessness. It then used these profiles to query American Community Survey data in order to develop provisional estimates and determine the characteristics of these populations.