5 Predictions for Immigration Law in America in 2021
From the 2017 “Muslim Ban” to 2020’s Public Charge Rule and a global pandemic, the past four years have presented a number of challenges and changes to the U.S. immigration system.
In fact, over 400 executive actions have been taken by the Trump Administration; legal immigration has declined, and so have caseloads and revenues for immigration service providers and law firms. That could all change in 2021.
The worldwide coronavirus crisis had a devastating impact in 2020, as global migration fell by 46% in the first half of the year. Similarly, the number of immigrant visas granted by the U.S. in 2020 dropped 46%. Pre-pandemic, new applications for green cards decreased by 17% in the Trump years, and immigrant visas issued fell by the same amount.
Some have suggested that the 2017-2019 numbers were just normal cyclical trends. However, the public perception is that the U.S. in recent years hasn’t exactly been immigration-friendly. This just might be a case where perception is reality. And some of the restrictive policies put in place could have had a more significant, and lasting negative impact in the years to come on not only immigration as a whole, but the labor force and the economy in general, if left unchanged.
Immigration law changes are already in motion for 2021
Which brings us to 2021, and the new administration. President Joe Biden has promised to overturn many of the Trump-era policies, and to “restore and defend” legal immigration. On his first day in office, he signed off on 17 executive actions, several of which were related to immigration policies. With that in mind, let’s run down 5 predictions for immigration in America in 2021.
Ending and reversing Trump’s family separation policies is an immediate goal. A task force will be created to reunite children separated from their parents at the border. Inhumane border enforcement will be stopped, as will the building of the border wall. The ‘Muslim Travel Ban’ will be lifted, and protection for asylum seekers will be restored.
Deportation reform — DACA and TPS protection
Supreme Court decisions in 2020 ended the Trump Administration’s attempts to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and now Vice President Kamala Harris has promised automatic green cards for the so-called DACA “Dreamers”, who were brought to the U.S. as children of legal immigrants. Immediate green cards will be handed as well to immigrants protected by the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) policy, ending deportation fears for many.
In addition, a large number of undocumented residents are performing a great service for America, as Covid-19 essential workers. “We can’t at the same time keep applauding all these essential workers who we are relying on and not recognize them legally,” Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center told CBS News. “And so, providing them with some kind of protection and work authorization so that they can do the work without the fear of detention or deportation …is really critical.”
Reduced citizenship wait times
The new administration is planning to rescind many Trump policies that slowed case processing times for the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), and add more immigration judges, with the goal of slashing the backlog and reducing the current wait time for American citizenship by half a decade, from 13 years to 8 years.
Rollback of the Public Charge Rule
Under the Trump Administration, the definition of “Public Charge” (a person reliant on government benefits) was broadly expanded in such a way as to reduce the number of applicants eligible for green cards or other visas. Biden will ensure that the rule reverts back to its previous status.
Cloud and tech-friendly firms will profit
While all of the above is expected to lead an uptick in applicants, the pandemic will have another kind of major impact on the immigration industry in 2021: Law firms and immigration service providers will need to increase flexibility and scale up technology to accommodate the remote workforce, says Umesh Vaidyamath, Mitratech advisor and former CEO for INSZoom. “Law firms will potentially invest more towards web-based Case Management, video conferencing, file sharing, and Cloud-based technology.”
The new work-from-home norm means that immigration service providers and law firms that are set up to collaborate and share data in the Cloud will be the ones corporation HR teams turn to, says Vaidyamath.
Overall, for the country as a whole, it’s clear that the Biden Administration will create a more immigration-friendly climate; for the immigration industry, combine a growth in case demands with a largely remote workforce, and 2021 should see an increase in revenue and cases for immigration law firms—if they have their heads in the Cloud.