An Immigration Attorney’s Five Suggestions for the Biden/Harris Administration

An Immigration Attorney’s Five Suggestions for the Biden/Harris Administration



On January 20, 2021, we hope for our country to move forward and to heal after four years of intolerance, fear, inequality, impunity, and violence. We hope our country uses the lessons learned to create a fairer and safer home for all who live in the US, but especially for our most vulnerable and exploited neighbors.


Immigrants are some of the most powerful and successful citizens in the US (Madeleine Albright; Dr. Sanjay Gupta; Sergey Brin; Natalie Portman, Wolf Blitzer; Arnold Schwarzenegger; countless entrepreneurs, inventors, doctors, teachers, writers, entertainers, celebrities). However, millions more immigrants are exploited and marginalized, despite what they have already contributed to the US and despite what they still have to give our country.


Our immigration policies must recognize the value of immigrants, and for the past four years they have not. To get there, an immigration attorney provides some suggestions for the Biden/Harris Administration.


  1. Use inclusive speech that recognizes the existence of and value of diversity in our communities.

This is a complicated request because language is steeped in anachronistic or hidden meanings, assumptions, and stereotypes. But, it starts with an easy rule for the President of the United States: Don’t speak like a racist.


  1. Reinstate Obama’s prosecutorial priorities.

Obama’s tenure has been derisively dubbed the “deportation administration” because of the record number of deportation/removal orders it issued. However, the reason why his administration reached high numbers is because it focused on deportation cases that were easier to win than a deportation case against a grandmother who entered the US illegally 30 years ago, married a US citizen; raised children who became a doctor, a lawyer, and a teacher; ran her own business; and now cares for her husband with terminal cancer.  That case is cruelly unsympathetic and hard for the government to win, and it takes years for the Immigration Court to figure that out. Obama created a list of priorities that focused on non-citizens who posed national security threats and had criminal convictions that rendered them deportable. Those cases are fast for the government to win; often times for good—and bad—the non-citizen has absolutely no defense to deportation, and the government swiftly wins and moves on to the next case.


  1. Expand DACA eligibility, at minimum; create a path for lawful permanent residence for DACA recipients.

The President can expand DACA eligibility to include children who entered too late, or were too old, or left the US for some other reason. The President should lead Congress in passing a statute to provides for more protection, more safety, more promise for DACA recipients: lawful permanent residence.



  1. Create a path for lawful permanent residence for TPS holders.

TPS prevents an otherwise deportable non-citizen from being deported (absent certain ineligibilities mainly relating to criminal history), grants the person authorization to work in the US, and in some cases provides a way for the person to leave and re-enter the US. However, it does not give the TPS holder any path towards lawful permanent residency or citizenship. That person lives in the US knowing that her status is subject to the whim of the current presidential administration. That person lives in the US knowing that she will never be a US citizen. There are hundreds of thousands of TPS holders in the US. Some TPS holders have had that status since the 1990s. TPS creates an institutionalized slave class. The message of TPS is stay here for as long as we want you; work in a low-paying job (generally); and never think that the US will ever truly welcome or protect you.


  1. Create an I-751 or marriage-based naturalization option.

As an immigration attorney, I am always annoyed that lawful permanent residents who must renew their marriage-based green cards after two years are then eligible for US citizenship one year later. Both stages require expensive filing fees and burdensome applications. Why not combine those two steps to reduce the burden on the couple and also to streamline the government’s work?