Murad Awawdeh, right, with the New York Immigration Coalition, speaks at a rally asking President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize…
Murad Awawdeh, right, with the New York Immigration Coalition, speaks at a rally asking President-elect Joe Biden to prioritize immigration reform, Nov. 9, 2020, in New York.

WASHINGTON - The incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden could swiftly reverse an array of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, many of which remain among the most contentious initiatives of his administration.

Biden could overturn many guidelines using the same mechanism Trump employed to implement them: executive orders. Others, however, will require more than a policy declaration, experts say.

In the last four years, Trump authored more than 400 regulatory actions through his executive power. 
Michele Waslin, program coordinator at the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University in Virginia, told VOA the list includes sweeping travel restrictions, changed immigration enforcement priorities, overhauled asylum rules, an emergency declaration for border wall construction and successively reduced caps on refugee admissions.

“In theory, presidential proclamations and executive orders can be rescinded by the new president; however, in many cases, the change will not be immediate since people will need to be installed in the agencies, guidance and field manuals must be updated, and plans will need to be made to carry out the changes,” she said.

Waslin said undoing other policies is expected to be more complex.

"Policies that were changed through regulations will likely require new regulations and a new public comment period,” she explained.

The first 100 days

Within the first 100 days, Biden is expected to repeal Trump’s executive order that barred most nationals from certain countries from visiting the United States. Initially, the restrictions targeted citizens of some majority Muslim nations, but they were expanded to include other countries Washington regards as security threats. 

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Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania are now part of an amended executive order that already imposes travel restrictions on some citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea

The latest order includes Myanmar (Burma), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, Tanzania, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with Venezuela and North Korea.

Another change that experts said would be simple to make is reopening the DACA program to all qualified applicants.

DACA is short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program launched by the Obama administration that shields from deportation people brought illegally to the United States as minors.

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The court narrowly ruled that the administration did not follow procedure, not that DACA recipients have a permanent right to live in the United States

Under the Trump administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stopped accepting new DACA applications.

In 2019, the Trump administration proposed a plan promising a "fair, modern and legal" overhaul of the American immigration system. It did not address the DACA program and Congress did not act on it.

President Donald Trump speaks about his administration's proposals to change U.S. immigration policy as members of his cabinet and others listen in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, May 16, 2019.
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A proposed "fair, modern and legal" overhaul of the American immigration system, which lawmakers from both major U.S. parties contend has little chance of winning congressional approval, was announced Thursday by U.S.

It is widely expected that a Biden administration will extend protection from deportation as well as work authorization to hundreds of thousands of additional unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children.

“The Supreme Court had already ordered USCIS to begin processing DACA applications again, but they have not done so. The new administration should be able to reopen the application process; however, a legislative solution is needed to truly offer permanent protection to that group of people who arrived in the U.S. as young children,” Waslin said.

Public charge

According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), reversing the USCIS’s public-charge regulation will require more than the stroke of a pen. The agency likely would have to go through a notice and public comment period.

The public charge rule, or the wealth test, as critics call it, seeks to determine whether an immigrant is likely to rely on America's public assistance programs. Although the rule is not a new concept and has been on the books for more than 20 years, the Trump administration is making actual use of it far more than its predecessors did.

Weizhen Cai from China, right, and Ahmed Haloui from Morocco recite the oath of citizenship during a celebration of the naturalization off approximately 200 new citizens of the United State , Nov. 30, 2017 at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston.
New US Immigration Rule Sparks Questions
After getting a preliminary green light from US Supreme Court, Trump administration is set to subject immigrants to heightened scrutiny based on their perceived likelihood to rely on America's public assistance programs — what critics call a wealth test 

Biden has also vowed to send Congress legislation to provide legal status to many undocumented immigrants in the country.
“Yet seeking congressional action on one of the most contentious immigration issues would inevitably be a challenging first step for the new administration, even as public support for immigration overall has risen to the highest recorded,” MPI reports.

Refugee program

The United States has for years taken in tens of thousands of refugees, but under the Trump administration, admissions have reached a record low.

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Administration publishes notice of new all-time-low number for refugee admissions

Biden is expected to raise the refugee cap for fiscal 2021, which the Trump administration set at 15,000. During the campaign, Biden pledged a refugee admissions ceiling of 125,000.

"Dramatic cuts to refugee admissions have hit the network of nonprofit agencies that do the work of refugee resettlement hard. Resettlement capacity has decreased nearly 40 percent since FY 2017,” MPI noted, adding that, before leaving office, former President Barack Obama set the number at 110,000.

MPP and asylum rules

Trump’s oft-repeated pledge to halt illegal immigration and get control of America’s southern border spawned an array of policies and regulations that narrowed access to humanitarian protections for migrants.

They included Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), also known as the Remain in Mexico policy, which forced thousands of migrants to stay in Mexican border cities while awaiting immigration court hearings in the United States. The administration also restricted asylum for immigrants who traveled through Central American countries if they failed to apply for protection in a transit nation before arriving at a U.S. port of entry.

Undoing the MPP and reinstating asylum protection will be the most difficult, experts predict.

“I believe the Trump administration's actions toward refugees, asylees and others seeking humanitarian assistance will be felt for a very long time,” Waslin said. “It will take a while for the U.S. to reassert its leadership and provide the assistance it can to people suffering around the world.”

The Trump administration has defended MPP as preventing overcrowding in U.S. migrant detention facilities.

In an upcoming article, VOA immigration reporter Aline Barros will examine possible changes to H-1B regulations, international student visas, border wall construction and migrant detention in a Biden administration.

What Happens Next?

What It Means to Become President-Elect in the US

In the United States, Democrat Joe Biden is being called the president-elect.

President-elect is a descriptive term not an official office. As such, Biden has no power in the government, and he would not until he is inaugurated at noon on January 20, 2021.

American news networks, which track all of the vote counting, determined on November 7 that Biden’s lead had become insurmountable in Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed to be president. Within minutes of determining his lead was mathematically assured, they projected him as the winner.

That is why news organizations, including VOA, are calling Biden the "projected winner."

Sometimes, in the case of particularly close elections, when news networks make this call, the other candidate does not concede victory. President Donald Trump has not done so, alleging voter fraud without substantial evidence and vowing to fight on. The president’s position has left Washington lawmakers divided, with Republicans backing a legal inquiry into allegations of vote fraud, even as they celebrate other congressional lawmakers who won their races.

When will the dispute be resolved?

The U.S. election won’t be officially certified for weeks. In the meantime, court challenges and state recounts could occur.

So far, the Trump administration has not provided evidence for any fraud that could overturn the result, but there is still time for more legal challenges.

Once states have certified the vote, pledged electors then cast their votes in the Electoral College in mid-December. Congress then certifies the overall Electoral College result in early January, about two weeks before Inauguration Day.