Thursday, December 3, 2020
Guest blogger: Marisela Musgrove, law student, University of San Francisco:
While it is clear that President Trump has generally not cooperated with regard to a post-election presidential transition, this could have particularly concerning implications for immigration reform. During the first half of November, the Trump Administration refused to cooperate with the Biden administration, even after the election was called in favor of Biden. 
The Biden administration has selected Ur Jaddou, a former lead USCIS official, to lead the team that will review the Department of Homeland Security during the transition. However, Jaddou would not be granted access until a Trump-appointed official from the General Services Administration wrote a “letter of ascertainment” stating the likely winner of the presidential election, which had yet to happen as of November 16th. Trump's baseless claims of election fraud and frivolous lawsuits have clearly allowed this delay to last much longer than it should.
An anonymous USCIS employee recently stated that it is “disturbing and disheartening that the agency is not permitting staff to aid the Biden transition team to ensure a smooth transfer,” and “[t]hese delays could hamper the new administration’s ability to hit the ground running on important issues facing the agency and our country.” The Trump administration has restricted immigration policies in many ways, including packing courts with conservative judges, use of border restrictions, family separations, and a recent increase in fees for asylum and citizenship applications. At the beginning of October, the fee to apply for citizenship increased from $640 to $1160 if e-filed, or $1170 filed by hard copy. These fees were already a significant barrier for many immigrants, and will likely make access to citizenship unattainable for many.
Recent reports detail that the Trump administration has been rushing to enact additional restrictive immigration policies. Many claim that Trump has made effort to make safe “third country” agreements with additional nations. Our nation has already made such agreements with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. This is especially problematic because these nations are known for their own instability and often generate a significant number of asylum-seekers themselves. There have also been efforts to enact legislation affecting international students, that will shorten the length of time that students can spend in our country. DHS recently proposed changes to student visas, as well as visas for exchange visitors and foreign media in September.
Biden has promised to bring an end to the Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, a policy which has been particularly harmful for asylum-seekers. Biden has also detailed an interest in revamping our country’s seasonal worker program, which could provide great economic benefit. Additionally, Biden promised to increase the number of refugees admitted to the United States annually to 125,000, a significant increase from the Trump administration's record-low admission rate of 15,000. With regard to DACA, Biden plans to both reinstate and expand protections for DREAMers by increasing access to healthcare as well as education.
While Joe Biden’s immigration plan has promised to reunify families and counteract many of Trump's immigration policies, Biden’s reform efforts may be hindered by the previous administration’s unceasing efforts to dismantle asylum protections and immigration in general.
Some measures may be more difficult to dismantle than others, such as Trump's sweeping appointments of conservative immigration judges. The reunification process in particular could prove rather difficult given the lack of documentation and cooperation from the previous administration. Hopefully Biden will take note from his predecessor and utilize his power to enact Executive Orders wherever feasible, and possibly even pack immigration courts to undo some of Trump’s lasting damage.
 Hamed Aleaziz, Immigration Officials Have Been Told Not To Communicate With Joe Biden's Transition Team,
Justin Lessner, With Immigration Fees Set To Increase, Advocacy Groups Are Hosting “Citizenship Weeks” To Help People Get Their Documents In On Time, https://wearemitu.com/things-that-matter/with-immigration-fees-set-to-in crease-advocacy-groups-are-hosting-citizenship-weeks-to-help-people-get-their-documents-in-on-time/ (Sep. 2020)
 Justin Lessner, The Trump Team Is Ramming Through Last Minute Immigration Rules That Will Have Serious Impacts On Migrants, https://wearemitu.com/things-that-matter/last-minute-trump-immigration/, (Nov. 2020)
 Justin Lessner, Trump Finally Gave The Green Light To Start The Transition But Many Immigration Policies Are Already Affected, https://wearemitu.com/things-that-matter/biden-transition-immigration-blocked/, (Nov. 2020)