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Biden Revokes Trump’s Pause on Green Cards


WASHINGTON — President Biden reopened the country on Wednesday to people seeking green cards, ending a ban on legal immigration that President Donald J. Trump imposed last spring, citing what he said was the need to protect American jobs during the pandemic.

In a proclamation, Mr. Biden said that the ban did “not advance the interests of the United States,” challenging Mr. Trump’s claims that the way to protect the American economy during the health crisis was to shut the country off from the rest of the world.

“To the contrary,” Mr. Biden said of his predecessor’s immigration ban, “it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here. It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.”

The president’s action was the latest example of his efforts to roll back Mr. Trump’s assault on the nation’s immigration system. Since taking office, Mr. Biden has issued several executive orders and directives aimed at lifting restrictions on immigrants put in place over the past four years.

In April, as the coronavirus crisis worsened, Mr. Trump ordered a “pause” in the issuance of green cards, one of the primary ways that foreigners can receive permission to live and work in the United States.

At the time, Mr. Trump described his action as a way to protect Americans, millions of whom lost their jobs as the threat of the coronavirus shut down the economy.

“By pausing immigration, we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America reopens. So important,” Mr. Trump said. “It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad. We must first take care of the American worker.”

Critics of Mr. Trump accused him of using the pandemic as an excuse to further advance his agenda of severely restricting immigration. And many scholars noted that studies had repeatedly cast doubt on the idea that immigration was a direct threat to American jobs because many immigrants take jobs that Americans do not want.

Mr. Biden echoed that sentiment. In his proclamation, he wrote that he found “that the unrestricted entry into the United States” of people seeking green cards was “not detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Foreigners trying to move to the United States can seek to become “lawful permanent residents” — otherwise known as receiving a green card — which allows them to live in the country and eventually seek citizenship.

Mr. Trump’s proclamation did not block American citizens from trying to bring their spouses or children to the United States. But it did bar other foreigners, including the relatives of green card holders and those seeking green cards based on a job offer.

An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute at the time estimated that the policy could affect as many as 660,000 people.

Mr. Biden has vowed to return the United States’ immigration policies to what they were before Mr. Trump became president. He has increased the number of refugees that can be resettled in the country, and he has taken steps to process claims of asylum seekers waiting in squalid camps at the Mexico border.

But Mr. Biden has also proposed a more far-reaching overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, fulfilling a campaign promise he made to send legislation to Congress on the first day of his presidency.

In his legislation, the president would provide an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The legislation has been proposed in the House and Senate by Mr. Biden’s Democratic allies, but it is unclear whether it can earn enough Republican support to pass the Senate.

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