When Joe Biden becomes US President on 20 January 2021, he is expected to usher in a new era for global immigration, restoring America’s position as the favoured destination for migrants and refugees worldwide. During the course of Donald Trump’s presidency, total immigration to the US fell by over 50% from 2016-2019, falling to its lowest level since the 1980s. President Trump passed nearly 400 executive orders during his time in office that were specifically designed to curtail the movement of people. These orders will be revoked, starting from President Biden’s first day in office, though this will take time. Of greater significance, however, will be the shift in rhetoric, moving away from isolationist themes as Biden attempts to revitalise the spirit of internationalism and overturn the idea that immigration is a burden rather than an asset.
Biden’s team in Washington will set about reversing the trajectory of global student migration that saw vast numbers of international students, particularly from China and India, opt for courses in the UK, Australia or Europe in the last few years. Rather than weaponising the movement of students, a tool the Trump administration employed frequently, a new emphasis is likely to be placed on bringing the top echelons of talent to the US.
This may cause concern among policy makers in the UK. The Graduate Immigration Route, giving international students with a valid Tier 4 visa (who have completed a degree at undergraduate level or above) the opportunity to remain in the UK for a maximum period of two years, is due to commence in Summer 2021. It has been suggested the Graduate Immigration Route was devised as an alternative to the US’ Optional Practical Training Scheme and now the UK may be compelled to make further revisions to the scheme to attract a larger share of the global talent pool.
One of Biden’s primary challenges upon assuming office will be to rebuild the Foreign Service and State Department. Recent discoveries from the Asylum Research Centre have found that country reports written by State Department officials during Trump’s tenure contained several glaring omissions of human rights violations. This had profound implications for asylum claims across the globe, as these reports are used by a plethora of institutions including the UK Home Office and the European Court of Human Rights as evidence in asylum proceedings. By restoring the State Department’s reputation for rigour, Biden’s reforms will have a notable effect on global asylum cases.
As a proponent of immigration, President Biden is expected to implement a number of important changes to the US immigration system, including:
i) Raising the annual Refugee Admissions Programme from 15,000 to an estimated 125,000;
ii) Revoking the Migrant Protection Protocols that kept 65,000 asylum seekers in Mexican detention camps while their claims were being processed in the US;
iii) Reinstating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, giving a generation of ‘dreamers’ (the children of undocumented parents) the chance to apply for work or study without fear of deportation; and
iv) Repealing the Immigration and Nationality Act, colloquially known as the Muslim travel ban.
A global transformation
Most importantly, the election of a self-confessed ‘internationalist’ is likely to upend the pattern of tighter border restrictions, suspicion of outsiders and hostility to migrants that was legitimised by Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory. Countries that tailored their immigration policies to reflect this shift may seek to amend their systems and adopt a more welcoming stance. This rhetorical revision may not have an immediate impact, but one of the long-term ramifications of Biden’s election will be a change in how immigration is viewed across the world. Procuring global talent will re-emerge as a top priority for governments seeking to attract the best and brightest to their countries.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.