On January 20, President Biden signed several executive orders (EOs) that reversed previous immigration-related actions taken by the Trump Administration. The president also announced his proposed comprehensive legislation that would make broad changes to current immigration laws, the pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents and border security policy. Although immigration is a federal responsibility, lack of congressional reform and shifting federal administrative policies have created confusion and uncertainty for county governments, who must provide for the well-being and safety of all members of our communities, including immigrant populations.
President Biden’s EOs revoke previous EOs issued by President Trump including excluding noncitizens from the 2020 census, banning Muslims and withholding federal funds from “sanctuary” cities. Another EO halts construction of the southern border wall and reviews the legality of its funding and contracting. President Biden also signed a memorandum directing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Attorney General to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and calls on Congress to provide permanent status and a pathway to citizenship. In response, DHS published a memorandum detailing the agency’s 100-day pause on certain deportations in order to “focus the Department’s resources where they are most needed."
In addition to the executive orders, President Biden released the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a legislative framework proposing broad immigration reforms. The bill aims to provide a clear pathway for citizenship for 11 million undocumented individuals, modernize employment and labor protections for legal immigrants, establish additional border security measures and create additional funding for state and local governments to support integration and citizenship programs. Additionally, the bill would clarify the county role in the immigration process and provide counties with direct funding to better integrate new citizens into our communities. Finally, it would help boost local economies by streamlining the visa process and enhancing workforce development.
Some in Congress have already signaled their eagerness to pass this legislation. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-Calif.) announced that he will introduce the bill in the U.S. Senate, while Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) plans to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House.
Additional immigration-related actions, including agency review of the Trump Administration’s public charge rule, are forthcoming.
Given the central role of county governments in ensuring the health and safety of all members of local communities, county leaders are important stakeholders in discussions related to federal immigration policies. NACo calls on Congress to pass comprehensive, meaningful immigration legislation that provides clarity at the local level and helps counties work with federal partners on immigration issues while serving the needs of all residents.
- NACo Immigration Reform Task Force
- NACo Immigration Reform Task Force: County Role in Immigration
- NACo Blog: Supreme Court rules in favor of DACA
- NACo Blog: Administration announces plan to phase out DACA; puts pressure on Congress to act