WASHINGTON, DCN, 29 January 2021 – Africans visiting, studying, resident or seeking asylum in the United States are applauding immigration-friendly policies by executive orders announced in his first ten days in power by US President Joseph R. Biden.
Within hours of entering the White House, the first executive orders reversed the most obnoxious of the immigration policies put in place by his predecessor Donald Trump.
The new wind in favor of immigrants is as sweeping as the policies of the Trump administration were radical.
President Joe Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act 2021 proposes an eight-year period for eleven million undocumented immigrants to receive green cards (five years) and be qualified to apply for citizenship after another three years.
Joe Biden has already sent his comprehensive immigration agenda to Congress, pledging in it, to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system”.
Biden’s plan is unlikely to receive support from Republicans, but the Democratic majority has been encouraged, including by former president, Barack Obama, to do away with a super-majority vote provision (filibuster) in the Senate that could prevent the agenda from being passed.
One of Biden’s first executive orders set out to preserve the DACA program first put in place by President Obama.
DACA protects undocumented individuals (known as Dreamers) who came to the United States as children and, through no fault of theirs, were caused, by their patents, for example, to overstay their visas.
Under the Act, those currently under Temporary Protected Status and certain farm workers will become eligible for a green card immediately and then be eligible for citizenship three years after holding green cards.
The Obama Administration has committed to clear the backlogs in asylum cases, in applications for work authorizations, for green cards and for citizenship.
It will exempt PhD graduates from U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) from green card caps, making it easier for them to become permanent residents and ultimately naturalizing as American citizens.
Spouses and children of permanent residents will no longer be subject to very long wait times, if the Act passes.
Instead, they will become eligible for green cares immediately so that families are not separated in different countries awaiting issuance of green cards.
A quick analysis of the Act by Immigration Law Center, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, explains that only undocumented immigrants and persons who sought a waiver on humanitarian ground who were in the USA before 1 January 2021 would qualify.
Those who meet the above criteria will obtain Provisional Legal Status. They would be required to “pay all required fees and penalties… receive a work authorization [and] be able to apply for a travel document”.
Those who hold their Provisional Legal Status for at least five years will become eligible for Green Cards or Legal Permanent Residency by paying “all required fees and penalties” [showing] “proof of paying taxes [and passing] all biometric and background checks”.
After three years with a green card, they could naturalize as U.S. citizens by paying “all required fees [passing] additional background checks [and passing] English and Civic Tests”.
Additionally, the Act allows “certain individuals” who were deported during the Trump Administration, but who had lived in the U.S. for three years to return and reunite with their families for humanitarian reasons.
The Act also gives more time for persons seeking asylum in the United States to apply by eliminating the one-year filing deadline.
It puts in place a process for clearing the backlog of family-based and employment-based visas” and makes it possible for H1B dependents (spouses and children) to receive work authorization.
Additionally, the Biden administration has committed to raise the annual ceiling for refugee admissions to the United States from the current cap of 15,000 set by the Trump Administration to 125,000 per year.
Tens of thousands of African refugees came to and settled in the United States thanks to refugee admission and resettlement program.
Hundreds of asylum-seekers from Southern Cameroons aka Ambazonia were among several batches of mass deportations from immigration detention centers late in the Trump Presidency.
Tens of thousands of Africans were among the 65,000 asylum-seekers that the Trump administration returned to Mexico to await their asylum cases being heard in U.S. courts.
A court in Texas this week went a little further, ordering a 100-day delay in the deportation of asylum-seekers who are held in immigration detention facilities on the U.S. border with Mexico.
Under the court ruling, the migrants must be allowed to stay on the country until their asylum cases are heard and a ruling handed down.
The children were separated from their parents at the borders under what many have described as one of the most xenophobic, heartless immigration policies of the Trump Administration. Joe Biden called the program “criminal” during presidential debates with his predecessor, Donald Trump.
The Biden Administration has also committed to work with other nations to address the root causes of migration, particularly migration from Central America.
The Biden Administration proposes to provide billions of dollars to Central American countries to fight gang violence and other issues. It will also make it possible for people in Central America to apply for refugee status without even having to leave their countries.
One of the first executive orders by Joe Biden was to reopen the doors of the United States to citizens of Muslim majority countries who were prevented from coming to the country under the Trump Travel Ban Executive Order.
One in five Africans from the seven African countries directly impacted by the Trump Travel Ban stand to gain from the lifting of the travel restrictions.
Another of Biden’s executive orders halts the construction of the wall on the border with Mexico and commits to reunite hundreds of children with their parents.