Biden scraps Trump’s ban on green card applicants entering the US

Opening doors.
Opening doors.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
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Green card applicants can finally step out of their limbo.

On Wednesday (Feb. 25), US president Joe Biden revoked Donald Trump’s June 2020 proclamation freezing many green card applicants from returning to the US. The ban—which was initially meant to last until the end of 2020 and later extended till March 31, 2021—was issued by the Trump administration as a move to protect US workers from rising unemployment amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

But while overturning the ban, Biden said that shutting the door on legal immigration isn’t beneficial to the US. “To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” he wrote in his proclamation. Additionally, the freeze “also harms industries in the United States that utilise talent from around the world,” Biden acknowledged.

The ban by Trump had prevented around 26,000 people from obtaining green cards monthly since last April, as per estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

Biden’s move is in line with what immigration experts have been saying for a while now. Given that the American tech ecosystem is heavily dependent on foreign talent, experts have said that such bans would do more harm than good to US industries and the economy. Research has shown that American workers who could substitute their H-1B counterparts are already nearly fully employed. And despite the ban, there were vacancies that did not get filled.

Additionally, the country struggled when critical research (paywall) while several hospital staff (paywall) were locked out until restrictions were lifted for healthcare workers to help the US combat the rapid spread of the pandemic, showing how vital foreign workers are to the industry.

Indians, who receive three-quarters of the H-1B visas, have nearly 7,000 green card applications pending—almost 35 times the 2018 figure, data from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) show. Many of them have been in line for a green card for decades. Thanks to Trump’s ban, the wait time has only gotten worse.

Clearing the growing backlog of applications that have been held up for months as the pandemic shut down most visa processing could potentially take years, according to Curtis Morrison, a California-based immigration attorney, who represents people subject to the ban. “It’s a backlog that Trump created,” Morrison told Reuters. “He broke the immigration system.”

Meanwhile, one group of foreign workers is still waiting with bated breath for some relief: The H-1B visa-holders who are not in line for green cards. Biden has not undone the ban on these foreign workers. If he does not renew the ban, it automatically expires in a month.