A Summary of Immigration Policy in 2020

The year 2020 saw many changes to the immigration policy of the United States. From work visa restrictions to the reinstatement of DACA, the last twelve months have reshaped and shifted the ways in which immigrants must navigate the legalities of their status. Here are five of the biggest impacts in policy from 2020:

  1. The Public Charge Rule in February - On February 24, 2020, the Trump administration issued the Public Charge Rule, ultimately reducing the amount of people eligible for green cards and other U.S. visas. A public charge is someone who is or will likely become dependent on the government for substantial living. (1) The rule requires applicants to meet a stricter set of requirements, including but not limited to; health, employment, past visa denials, and non-cash resources of payment. While it does not apply to humanitarian aid visas and a select few “special cases”, such as Iraqi citizens who worked for the U.S. government, the new rule has denied over 13,000 green card applications. (2) 

  1. President Trump’s April Executive Order - Trump’s Proclamation 10014, issued on April 22, 2020, suspended entry of immigrant workers in order to preserve jobs for Americans in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. While lawful permanent residents were exempt from the proclamation permitting they maintained their legal status, the proclamation suspended entry of people seeking the H-1B, H-2B, J, and L visas. The proclamation was extended on June 22, 2020, and the restriction was written to end on December 31, 2020, but was also described to be “continued as necessary”. (3)

  1. The Reinstatement of DACA - The DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program was reinstated on December 4, 2020. This was a cause for celebration for many undocumented immigrants brought to the States as minors. However, the case against its restoration was brought to the court of Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas on December 22, 2020. A final decision has yet to be made. (4) 

  1. Rising Prices in USCIS Immigrant Visas - The prices for immigrant visa fees have risen considerably in the past year, but a new proposal by the USCIS suggested increasing the price of a green card by 56%, and naturalization to 61% (5). The USCIS published a new rule on August 3, 2020 which removed some exemptions and changed a few waiver requirements. On September 29, 2020, an injunction filed against this by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California halted the implementation of these fees that would have driven the price for certain visas by approximately 20 percent. (6) Nevertheless, prices for immigrant visas are on the rise and are continuing to increase. 

  1. Lower Amount of Refugees Permitted Into the States - The admission cap for refugees into the United States has lowered significantly from 2016, but the country saw its lowest admittance in 2020. In 2019, the cap was set at 30,000. (7) In 2020, that ceiling dropped to 18,000, and only 11,814 were settled in the U.S. within that year. (8) While coronavirus has definitely affected the amount of people taking asylum in the United States, the projected cap for admittance of refugees into the country is still relatively low. 

Ultimately, 2020 saw a lot of changes to American immigration policy that made entry into the United States more difficult, and challenged the statuses of foreign-born and unocumented residents already within. With a change in administration coming this January 20th, and the promises already made by president-elect Biden, it is likely that immigration policy could be headed in a completely different direction this year. 

  1. “Public Charge Fact Sheet.” USCIS, 22 Sept. 2020, www.uscis.gov/news/public-charge-fact-sheet#:~:text=DHS%20implemented%20the%20Inadmissibility%20on,final%20rule%20beginning%20on%20Feb.&text=21%2C%202020%2C%20and%20therefore%20DHS,on%20or%20after%20that%20date.
  2. “The Public Charge Policy for U.S. Visa Applicants Outside the U.S.” Boundless, 7 Aug. 2020, www.boundless.com/blog/public-charge-rule-state-department/. 
  3. “Proclamation Suspending Entry of Aliens Who Present a Risk to the U.S. Labor Market Following the Coronavirus Outbreak.” The White House, The United States Government,www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-suspending-entry-aliens-present-risk-u-s-labor-market-following-coronavirus-outbreak/. 
  4. “DACA.” ILRC, 6 Jan. 2021, www.ilrc.org/daca. 
  5. “Marriage Green Card and Citizenship Application Fees in 2020.” Boundless, 7 Aug. 2020, www.boundless.com/blog/uscis-fees-increase-comparison/#:~:text=USCIS%20proposes%20hiking%20fees%20by,61%25%2C%20to%20become%20%241%2C170. 
  6. “AILA - Featured Issue: Changes to USCIS Fee Schedule.” American Immigration Lawyers Association, www.aila.org/advo-media/issues/all/changes-to-uscis-fee-schedule#:~:text=Litigation%20%7C%20Media%20Resources-,On%20August%203%2C%202020%2C%20USCIS%20published%20a%20Final%20Rule%20that,of%20beneficiaries%20for%20certain%20forms. 
  7. “VIDEO: The Presidential Determination Explained.” HIAS, www.hias.org/news/blog/video-presidential-determination-explained?gclid=Cj0KCQiA0fr_BRDaARIsAABw4EsNWnFfJIu8JV2PjLBljsTb89U1my1tBDjhUr2GfpQcfeLRO4JAN5saAt3_EALw_wcB. 
  8. Carratala, Silva Mathema and Sofia. “Rebuilding the U.S. Refugee Program for the 21st Century.” Center for American Progress, www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2020/10/26/492342/rebuilding-u-s-refugee-program-21st-century/. 

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