American President Joe Biden on Wednesday lifted a freeze issued by his predecessor Donald Trump that blocked many green card applicants from entering the United States, Reuters reported.
Trump had last year halted the issuance of green cards until the end of 2020 in the name of protecting American jobs amid high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. On December 31, he extended those orders until the end of March.
Biden rejected that reasoning in a proclamation on Wednesday rescinding the visa ban. The Democratic president said that “shutting the door on legal immigrants does not advance the interests of the United States”, reported AP.
On the contrary, Biden said it harmed the United States, by preventing certain family members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. “It also harmed American businesses that utilize talent from around the world,” Biden stated in his proclamation.
As many as 1,20,000 family-based preference visas were lost largely because of the pandemic-related freeze in the 2020 budget year, according to the American Immigrant Lawyers Association. Immigrants could not bring over family members unless they were US citizens applying for visas for their spouses or children under the age of 21.
It also barred entry to immigrants with employment-based visas unless they were considered beneficial to the national interest such as healthcare professionals.
Biden has pledged to reverse many of Trump’s hardline immigration policies. Immigrant advocates had pressed in recent weeks for him to lift the visa ban, which was set to expire on March 31.
Meanwhile, Biden has proposed legislation that would limit presidential authority to issue future bans against immigrants. The president has not said whether there will be any redress for visa lottery winners who lost out because of the pandemic-era policies of Trump. But he is calling for the US to increase the number of diversity visas available via the lottery each year from 55,000 to 80,000, according to AP.