What changes will President Joe Biden be able to make at USCIS as quickly as possible? Hi, I’m Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
All right, we’re going to do a little civics lesson, and we’re going to talk about the three branches of government. Of course we know about the courts, the Supreme Court and the lower courts. They interpret the law. The Congress writes the law. Congress passes laws. And the president enforces the laws. So those are the three branches of government. You have the judicial branch, the legislative branch and the executive branch. And we’ve been under four years of Donald Trump as the head of the executive branch. And when someone wants to change policies, there’s sort of a hierarchy of ways that a president or the government can change the way the law is.
So of course, the number one thing, our constitutional amendments. So those are very difficult to get. If you amend the constitution, that becomes part of the supreme law of the land. Just beneath that are laws, statutes passed by Congress. So that’s the House and the Senate have to pass a bill. They have to match it up, and they have to send it to the president for signature. That’s how it becomes law.
Donald Trump did very little of that during his tenure. And certainly on the immigration front, he did virtually nothing on immigration. So if there’s ever going to be comprehensive immigration reform, that’s going to have to come through Congress or conceivably a constitutional amendment. But that’s not going to happen. So Congress will have to pass a law to deal with the undocumented people here or fundamentally change federal immigration law. That has to be done at the congressional level, and then signed by the president.
Just beneath that would be regulatory changes. So if the executive branch, the president and the people and departments underneath the president want to change the way that the law is interpreted, then they would file a proposed regulation. They would give the public the opportunity to provide comment. When there’s a regulatory change, you can actually file public comments with the agencies, either supporting or opposing the proposed rule change.
And then the lowest level are things like executive orders or presidential proclamations. Now, Donald Trump was a very ineffective president. He could not get Congress to do much of anything. And especially in the last two years of his presidency with a Republican controlled Senate and a Democratically controlled house, very little and got done. But even when he had Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, he wasn’t able to get anything done on immigration. And so he had to go the regulatory route.
Now, Trump was lazy and his team was lazy and they also liked to just shoot from the hip. So Trump has many, many executive orders. And we know executive orders, which are things like the Muslim ban, the ban on allowing certain family members of US citizens and lawful permanent residents from coming to the United States, presidential proclamation 10014, things like that.
And something to keep in mind is that a lot of people focus on laws being passed, but when you have a different president, they interpret the law differently. And there are so many changes that happen sort of under the radar that you don’t really see. So when President Biden comes in, he’s going to be able to change a lot of the ways that the executive branch enforces the law. And so it’s anticipated that he’ll undo a lot of the executive orders that President Trump had signed. And it’s also anticipated that he’ll roll back a lot of the regulation changes, the things that were so anti-immigrant and so harsh on immigrants like the new asylum rule, the public charge rule and things of that nature. So that’ll take a little bit longer.
So going through our hierarchy again, if the Republicans are able to maintain control of the Senate, it will be hard to get anything meaningful like immigration reform passed through Congress. But as far as at the regulatory level, the president is going to be able to make substantial changes. All these harsh rules that we’ve seen crop up over the last four years, President Biden and the executive branch will able to undo those and walk them back. Some of the regulatory stuff, they’ll again have to post a new rule and comment. But so many of the old rules were tied up in the courts, in interpreting whether or not they were legal. I think that the new president can choose to not stop fighting those, and they might die a quicker death than they would ordinarily.
And then finally, with the executive orders, that’s something that President Biden will be able to undo sort of immediately, or whenever he has a chance to do that. I’m sure that he’s already working on a team of immigration experts to look at all the havoc and damage that President Trump and Steven Miller have caused to immigrants and in the immigrant community. And they’re going to work quickly to dismantle those. So we’re really excited about that.
We’re excited about the change that’s coming. We’re excited about what President Biden’s going to be able to do both to undo the damage of Donald Trump and to hopefully make life a little easier for immigrants. We’re excited about it. We hope you are too.
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