Executive Actions

Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelan Nationals (March 9, 2021)

  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is designating Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months, effective March 9, 2021, through September 9, 2022. Also provides procedures for Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Venenezuelans, based on the January 19, 2021 memorandum from former President Donald Trump.  Application information should be posted on https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian, and interested individuals should contact a qualified immigration attorney to discuss their case.  TPS is an important provision that allows the U.S. to respond to humanitarian needs; however, it should not subsitute for our international obligations to uphold protections for asylum seekers and victims of torture.  Additionally, Congress should provide long-term solutions for persons in the U.S. on TPS/DED to ensure safe and predictable ways for people to migrate with dignity.  

Executive Order on the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families (February 2, 2021) 

  • The Executive Order is a crucial step in righting the wrongs of the previous administration’s illegal and harmful family separation policy.  The Order establishes a taskforce to reunite families and address harms caused.  It also will work toward preventing such harms from happening again.  Yet, it fails to address the gaps in our immigration laws that allowed such atrocities to occur—we must ensure a safe, orderly and transparent process that allows people to seek protection with dignity.   

  • This Executive Order reviews numerous policies, practices, cases and actions of the previous administration with the aim of revoking or modifying them to comply with the law and our values as a leader in refugee protections.  The Order also seeks to address root causes of asylum and introduce alternatives for Central Americans fleeing violence.  While it is crucial to undo the prior administration’s actions that have harmed asylum seekers and threatened to undo our asylum system, The Advocates notes that much more remains.  Such actions do not target the many—and expanding—bars to asylum, criminalization of asylum seekers, narrowing of grounds of protections, and more.  Additionally, we caution that policies targeting root causes of migration, such as criminal activity and corruption, must be paired with adequate oversight and safeguards to ensure they do not further criminalize and destabilize regions.   

  • This Executive Order includes plans to conduct a top-to-bottom review of recent regulations, policies, and guidance that have set up barriers to our legal immigration system, make the naturalization process more accessible, and rescind policies that harm low-income migrants.  The Advocates welcomes efforts to not only address the harms in our system but to lead and envision a workable and safe system that ensures people can migrate with dignity in the 21st century.  Reviews must be paired with action and bold leadership.    

  • This Executive Order eliminates the xenophobic and misguided efforts by the prior administration to exclude immigrants from the census.  The census is a crucial tool that not only helps provide a picture of our nation and communities, but determines federal funding and representation.  Migrants make up crucial members of our communities—now, more than ever, as they over-represent the essential workers keeping us safe and fed during the pandemic.  We cannot exclude them.  Excluding from a national census categories of people also threatens to create a slippery slope towards discrimination in all manner of government programs.  We welcome this important change in revoking the prior administration’s discriminatory practices and ensuring a lawful and accurate census. 

  • This Order rescinds the prior administration’s Executive Order 13768, which expanded the priorities for immigration enforcement and detention to anyone in the U.S. without authorization, regardless of whether they lack criminal histories, are a threat to security and/or have family ties or may even be crime victims.  It directs review and revision of our enforcement priorities to conserve resources and recognize that our current system fails to provide means of migrating with safety, dignity and transparency, immigration enforcement actions—including detention.    

DHS Memo on Deportations (January 20, 2021)  

  • This memo was issued by the Department of Homeland Security, which is the agency in charge of immigration enforcement, deportations, border and immigration benefits.  The Memo directs an 100-day pause on removals with narrow exceptions.  It also directs review of numerous policies, including the Notice to Appear policy which directed USCIS—the benefits granting arm of DHS—to issue notices that refer people to immigration court for deportation if they apply for an immigration benefit (such as T visa for trafficking victims) that is denied.  A Texas Court enjoined the deportation freeze; however, the remainder of the order remains in effect. 

  • This Presidential Proclamation ends the “national emergency” that allowed funds to be directed to border wall construction.   

  • This Presidential Memo extends Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Liberians until January 2022.  This allows people to receive employment authorization and remain lawfully in the U.S. until the expiration of that program—with certain exceptions, such as criminal convictions that make someone deportable and ineligible for the program.  We note that the Liberian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act provided a path to a green card that many may be eligible for separate from DED.  The deadline to apply is December 20, 2021. 

Preserving and Fortifying DACA (January 20, 2021) 

  • The Presidential Memo reinstates Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and directs agencies to process applications (in accordance with SCOTUS order that Trump Administration refused to follow) and directs DHS/DOJ to “preserve and fortify” DACA. 

  • This Proclamation ends the xenophobic “Muslim Ban” that was instituted by the prior administration through several actions, barring individuals from largely Muslim-majority, African countries from entering the U.S., including with bona fide immigrant visas, without a waiver.  The Proclamation rescinds relevant orders and proclamations in-line with the Constitution, the law and our international obligations.  Xenophobia has no place in U.S. policy, and our immigration laws are no exception.  Discrimination on the basis of religion and/or nationality are barred by U.S. and international law.  The Advocates welcomes this change in approach that recognizes national security must be addressed by just, lawful, and transparent laws—not founded in hate and xenophobia.   

  • This Proclamation, unfortunately, continues the bars to entry that the Trump Administration initiated due to COVID-19.  While the bars under the Biden Administration target all persons seeking entry—while the Trump Administration focused on asylum-seekers—public health professionals and the World Health Organization have noted that suspensions of entry do not stop COVID-19 and can be harmful.  Reasonable alternatives, such as mandatory quarantine and testing, exist and should be utilized rather than infringing on the rights to freedom of movement.   

  • This Order outlines plans to improve the efficacy, security and transparency of the refugee resettlement process while taking account of the challenges facing refugee applicants.  We are particularly encouraged by plans to allow access to counsel—though, at no expense to the government—improve procedures to recognize all families and improve family reunification processes, ensure applicants can access their records, and make crucial innovations and improvements.  The Order also outlines crucial steps for restoring portions of the system targeted by the Trump Administration (such as rescinding harmful, duplicative and xenophobic Trump orders around enhanced vetting and state/local ability to veto admissions), building toward ensuring our compliance with the Refugee Convention.  We also welcome the focus on responding to climate change in recognition of the role it plays in driving migration despite serious gaps in our current protection frameworks that exclude climate refugees.