United States President Joe Biden on 24 February revoked a proclamation from his predecessor Donald Trump that blocked many green card applicants from entering the United States.
Former President Donald Trump had issued the ban last year, saying it was needed to protect US workers amid high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden rejected the rationale in a proclamation on 24 February, rescinding the visa ban. The president, a Democrat, said the ban had prevented families from reuniting in the United States. He said it harmed businesses in the US.
Biden has pledged to reverse many of the hardline immigration policies of Trump. Immigration advocates had been putting a lot of pressure on him in recent weeks to lift the visa ban, which was set to expire on 31 March.
Biden put in place another ban on most foreign temporary workers.
In October, a federal judge in California blocked Trump’s ban on those foreign guest workers as it affected hundreds of thousands of US businesses that fought the policy in court.
Curtis Morrison, a California-based immigration attorney, who represents people subject to the ban said Biden will now have to tackle a growing backlog of applications that have been held up for months as the pandemic shut down most visa processing by the State Department. The process could potentially take years, he said.
“It’s a backlog that Trump created,” Morrison said. “He broke the immigration system.”
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Most immigrant visas were blocked by the orders, immigration lawyers said.
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.
The ban had barred immigrants with employment-based visas from entering the US unless they were considered beneficial to the national interest such as healthcare professionals.
And it slammed the door on thousands of visa lottery winners, who were randomly chosen from a pool of about 14 million applicants, to be given green cards, which would let them live permanently in the United States.
The blocked visas add to a growing backlog that has reached 4,37,000 for family-based visas alone, said California immigration lawyer Curtis Morrison, who represented thousands of people blocked by the freeze.
I’m thrilled for my clients who are now in a position that they can now enter the US,” he said. But that backlog will take years if the administration does not take ambitious measures.”
A federal judge had last year issued a ruling that had all but lifted Proclamation 10052 by allowing temporary foreign workers to enter the United States if their employers are members of the US Chamber of Commerce or several other large organisations that represent much of the US economy.