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Biden Immigration Policies Saw Wins, Setbacks in First 100 Days

Supporters of immigration reform march while asking for a path to citizenship and an end to detentions and deportations, April 28, 2021, in Washington.
Supporters of immigration reform march while asking for a path to citizenship and an end to detentions and deportations, April 28, 2021, in Washington.

As President Joe Biden marks 100 days in office, here is an overview of his administration’s actions and positions on key immigration issues.


The administration had promised to welcome up to 125,000 refugees, up from the cap of 15,000 set by his immediate predecessor, Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Biden signed an order on extending the admissions cap because of “humanitarian concerns.” After encountering strong criticism from agencies that help resettle refugees, Biden said he would raise the ceiling on the number.

Travel ban

Biden pledged during his campaign to halt and lift the so-called travel ban, which blocked people from 13 countries, predominantly Muslim or African, from traveling to the United States.

An executive order from Biden authorized the State Department to process visa applications from the countries named in the ban.

Border wall

As Biden swiftly moved to undo major parts of the previous administration’s immigration policies, one of his first orders following his inauguration was to halt construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump had strongly defended the wall, saying it was needed to stop illegal immigration, but Biden called it a “waste of money” and pledged to push more humanitarian immigration policies.

Immigration bill

During his first presidential address to Congress Wednesday, Biden urged U.S. legislators to pass his immigration reform proposal.

"If you believe we need a secure border — pass it," Biden said. "If you believe in a pathway to citizenship — pass it."

The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives and Senate in February. It would create an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. while providing a fast track to citizenship for those brought to the country illegally as children.

Deportation freeze

Biden announced a 100-day deportation freeze along with a request to review enforcement policies executed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued to block Biden’s moratorium three days after the announcement. U.S. District Judge Drew Tipton temporarily paused the moratorium twice, then placed an indefinite halt on Biden’s 100-day ban on deportations in February.


In February, Biden ordered officials to put together a plan on dealing with migration that included asylum-seekers and refugees. His administration has yet to offer specifics on the plan. In the meantime, Biden has eliminated some guidelines and policies from the Trump era, such as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) — often referred to as the “Remain in Mexico” policy — which required asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases went through U.S. immigration courts.

Biden exempted minors from a policy known as Title 42 that gives U.S. Customs and Border Protection authority to expel migrants who enter the country without authorization in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

For most of 2020, the former Trump administration blocked asylum-seekers of all ages under Title 42.

DACA and Dreamers

Biden reinstated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era policy that prevents the deportation of undocumented young people brought to the country as children and who meet certain policy requirements. Those impacted by DACA are often described as “Dreamers,” which is derived from proposed legislation called the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.

The Trump administration was blocked from canceling DACA by the Supreme Court but was able to stop accepting new applications.

In March, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced a rule in the Federal Register to “preserve and fortify DACA,” but a Texas court challenge could nullify protections.

Immigration agents

Biden has added funds for investigating misconduct and for training in his proposed immigration bill and in the budget he sent to Congress. The Biden administration said it wanted to make sure immigration law enforcement officials were held accountable for misconduct or inhumane treatment.

The administration is already facing allegations of abuse in one Texas detention facility.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that they were not allowed to comment on specific cases but that the department “has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate sexual behavior.”

The allegations are under investigation.

Family separation

Family separation made headlines in 2018 after video emerged from a detention facility showing scores of sobbing children packed together and wailing for their parents. The situation emerged after Trump initiated a zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossings — a program that led to the separation of more than 5,000 migrant children from their parents. While nearly all parents were sent back to their home countries, their kids remained in U.S. custody.

Biden took office amid efforts from immigration advocates to reunite children with their parents. The administration created a task force, and the president has signed an executive order ending the policy. Although the task force is making progress, there are still hundreds of parents separated from their children.