By Felicia J. Persaud
News Americas, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, Fri. Dec. 4, 2020: Donald Trump’s days in the White House are now thankfully numbered, but that’s not stopping his administration from ramming through several immigration policy changes that could create tremendous bottlenecks for the incoming Joe Biden administration and the first Caribbean-born nominated head of the Department of Homeland Security.
Here are five recent changes from the Trump administration in the weeks since the Nov. 3, 2020 election, which could take the new administration a long time to reverse:
1: The administration last week unveiled new requirements that will now require prospective tourists and visitors from more than 20 countries, mostly in Africa to pay a bond of as much as a $15,000 bond to obtain a U.S. visa. The new requirements, unveiled by the US State Department said, are designed to send “a message” to certain nations to encourage their citizens to abide by the conditions of their U.S. visas.
Under the six-month pilot program starting December 24, U.S. consular officials could start requiring applicants for B-1 and B-2 visas who hail from the selected countries to pay a $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 bond, according to the temporary final rule issued by the State Department. Countries whose tourist and business travelers could be subject to the bond requirement include those from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Mauritania, Eritrea and Sudan. Other countries include Angola, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, as well as Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Laos, Liberia, Myanmar (Burma), Papua New Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe.
2: The Department of Homeland Security is trying to ramp up agreements to send asylum seekers to Central American countries, according to CNN. The agreements – initiated last year – marked a significant shift in US asylum policy as migrants who may have legitimate claims for asylum are sent to other countries to make their cases. The US is in various stages of the agreements with the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, but only the agreement with Guatemala was ever really up and running. DHS is now reportedly trying to see the agreements come to fruition before Joe Biden takes the oath of office.
3: This DHS has proposed a new rule that bars undocumented immigrants who are ordered to be removed from the US from receiving work permits, arguing that limiting work permits reduces “the incentive for aliens to remain in the United States after receiving a final order of removal and to strengthen protections for U.S. workers.”
Under current rules, undocumented immigrants who have final orders of removal and are temporarily released from DHS custody are generally eligible for work permits. But the new rule proposes limiting work permit eligibility, unless the department finds that “removal is impracticable because all countries from whom travel documents have been requested have affirmatively declined to issue a travel document and who establish economic necessity.”
4: Starting on Dec. 1, 2020, a new version of the U.S. citizenship test will require applicants to answer twice as many questions as the current one. The Trump administration’s US Citizenship and Immigration Services has revamped the test, which raises the number of questions to 20 from 10. The new test also foregoes geographical questions and test-takers will be required to name all three branches of government instead of just one. It also changes the answer to a question on whom U.S. senators represent from “all people of the state” to “citizens in their state,” which has drawn criticism over its accuracy. Applicants are asked to “name two important ideas from the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution” instead of “what are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?” And instead of correctly answering only six questions, candidates must correctly answer 12 and must answer the full 20 instead of stopping once they’ve reached the passing mark. English language proficiency is also a big requirement.
5: The US Department of Justice has begun requiring some immigrants facing deportation to file to stay in the US in a matter of weeks. Immigrants fighting deportation generally have a chance to make their case in court, where they can ask a judge to allow them to stay in the US by arguing they qualify for asylum or another legal option. But the DOJ is now asking immigration attorneys to file applications requesting relief from deportation for their clients within around five to six weeks. If the deadline is not met, a judge could issue a removal order, meaning they’d be subject to deportation at any time.
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow