February 04, 2021

“Immigration Day” Includes New Executive Orders, Confirmation of Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security

On February 2, 2021, Alejandro Mayorkas was confirmed as the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Biden administration then issued three immigration-related executive orders. This is the start of overhauling the restrictive immigration executive orders and policies implemented by the Trump administration over the last four years.

Mayorkas Confirmed as DHS Secretary

Prior to President Biden’s signing of several immigration-related executive orders, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas as DHS Secretary. Secretary Mayorkas will lead the third-largest federal department of the United States which includes U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Secretary Mayorkas has considerable related experience and previously served as the Director of USCIS. He is also the first immigrant to serve in the role of DHS Secretary. Upon the issuance of the initial executive orders from President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas made the following statement: “These Executive Orders will allow DHS to take immediate action to address the most pressing challenges we face. Chief among these challenges is reunifying families who were separated during the last Administration.”

Please see the following announcements about the confirmation, swearing in and initial statements from Secretary Mayorkas:

Immigration Executive Orders Issued February 2

The White House issued several executive orders on February 2, 2021, including its “Executive Order on the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families.” This EO was issued as the first step in reuniting children separated from their families at the U.S./Mexico border as part of the Zero-Tolerance Policy implemented by the Trump administration. This task force will identify all children who were separated from their families at the border between January 17, 2017, and January 20, 2021, and will then facilitate the reunification of these families.

Border issues and orderly processing of asylum-seekers was the subject of the “Executive Order on Creating a Comprehensive Regional Framework to Address the Causes of Migration Throughout North and Central America and to Provide Safe and Orderly Processing of Asylum Seekers at the Unites States Border.” This EO addresses border crossing and enforcement goals while emphasizing and enhancing lawful pathways for migration to the United States, including those for asylum seekers which had been severely curtailed during the Trump administration. Under the “Collaborative Management Strategy” in this EO, the Biden administration will prioritize and strengthen efforts to address migration flow, improve efforts for resettlement, and will expand pathways for individuals facing difficult or dangerous conditions in their home countries to seek relief through asylum and refugee programs, labor and non-protection related programs.

The last “Executive Order on Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans” issued on February 2, 2021, focused on shifting the immigration scrutiny from the last four years and embracing immigrants in all areas of the U.S. The EO outlines that the Domestic Policy Council will convene a Task Force on New Americans which will implement policies that impact immigrant communities. This EO specifically references that the Public Charge rule and other agency actions that fail to promote access to the legal immigration system must be reviewed and, consistent with the law, be rescinded or revised and that a plan should be submitted to the White House within 90 days. This EO also addresses promoting and improving the naturalization process, including a comprehensive review of the N-400 application, fingerprinting, background and security checks, interviews, civics and English language tests and the oath of allegiance.

Additional information and highlights about these Executive Orders:

Missing from these initial Executive Orders on “Immigration Day” was revocation of the Immigrant Visa (IV) and Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV) travel bans and the Healthcare Proclamation put in place last year by the Trump administration. Immigration advocates are hoping that orders relating to these issues will be included in the next wave of immigration-related executive orders from the Biden administration.

Upcoming Webinar

Please join us on February 10 as the Faegre Drinker Immigration and Global Mobility team hosts a webinar to discuss these and other immigration issues to be tackled by the Biden administration within and beyond the first 100 days. Visit our registration page for more information and to participate in this engaging opportunity.

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