President Joe Biden, on Wednesday, lifted a Trump-era ban on even most legal forms of immigration to the U.S., undoing nearly a year-long freeze on issuing green cards, which allow individuals to live and work in the country with a pathway to citizenship. In the early days of the pandemic, Trump stopped the issuance of green cards until the end of 2020 and then extended the order until the end of March, claiming that immigrants posed a “risk to the U.S. labor market” as the country battled the economic upheaval of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Biden officially revoked the proclamation on the basis that blocking legal immigration “does not advance the interests of the United States.” “To the contrary, it harms the United States,” Biden’s proclamation reads. The move is part of a larger shift in tone—and proposed policy—under the Biden administration that is more welcoming to immigrants after years of derisive and inflammatory rhetoric from Trump and his administration.
Trump vilified undocumented immigrants and his policies used cruelty as a weapon to discourage undocumented immigrants from arriving or staying. Bans targeting certain religions and the separation of children from their parents at the border were just two of the methods deployed. Trump then used the pandemic to restrict even further the pathways for immigrants to come to the U.S., closing off legal avenues almost entirely. In addition to stopping green card processing, temporary work visas for a variety of skilled workers—from managers to tech workers to au pairs—were halted. A federal ruling last year lifted many of the work visa restrictions, but did not affect the green card freeze.
The year-long pause on processing green cards has likely impacted hundreds of thousands of applications and cost many green card lottery winners the chance to come to the U.S. “Biden’s actions come only days after thousands of visa lottery winners at risk of having their visas expire won a court order that put their visas on hold by the judge in the case,” the Associated Press notes. “Now they will be allowed to use their visas to enter the country.”