In the news this issue you’ll read about the refugee cap being raised, withdrawal of a Trump administration proposed rule regarding biometrics use, and relief for asylum applicants waiting for work authorization.
President Biden Raises Refugee Cap to 62,500 in FY 2021
President Joe Biden revised the United States’ annual refugee admissions cap to 62,500 for fiscal year (FY) 2021, with a goal of 125,000 admissions for FY 2022. The announcement followed criticism after he announced plans to keep the number of refugee admissions at 15,000 this fiscal year primarily because of logistical concerns.
President Biden said that the “sad truth is that we will not achieve 62,500 admissions this year. We are working quickly to undo the damage of the last four years.” He said that “we are going to rebuild what has been broken and push hard to complete the rigorous screening process for those refugees already in the pipeline for admission.”
Details: “Statement by President Joe Biden on Refugee Admissions,” White House, May 3, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/05/03/statement-by-president-joe-biden-on-refugee-admissions/
DHS Will Withdraw Proposed Rule on Expanding Biometrics Collection Use
Coming out today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to withdraw a proposed rule concerning the use and collection of biometrics in the enforcement and administration of immigration laws by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The proposed rule called for providing DHS with flexibility to change its biometrics collection practices and policies as needed. Included were expanding the use of biometrics beyond background checks and document production to include identity verification and management in the immigration lifecycle, enhancing vetting to prove identity and familial relationships, precluding imposters, and improving consistency in biometrics terminology.
DHS said it still supports some of these goals but “not in a way that conflicts” with Executive Order, 14012, “Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans,” which instructs the Secretary of Homeland Security to identify barriers impeding access to immigration benefits.
In response to the notice of proposed rulemaking published on September 11, 2020, DHS received more than 5,000 comments, most of them in opposition. Commenters mentioned immigration policy, privacy, and economic concerns, and said the rule was “unnecessary, offensive, an invasion of privacy, would infringe on freedoms, and [would] violate the respect, privacy rights, and civil liberties of U.S citizens, legal immigrants, noncitizens, victims of domestic violence, other vulnerable parties, and children.” Many commenters also said the rule was “overly broad, highly invasive, and would impose excessive monetary costs on applicants and result in administration delays,” DHS said.
DHS said it will analyze the entirety of the proposed rule in the context of the directive in EO 14012 and consider what changes may be appropriate. In the meantime, DHS will maintain its current biometrics collection practices and policies.
Details: “USCIS Will Suspend Trump-Era Biometric Screening Rule for Work-Permit Applicants,” Reuters, May 4, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/legal/uscis-will-suspend-trump-era-biometric-screening-rule-work-permit-applicants-2021-05-04/
DHS Ratifies Rule That Removes 30-Day EAD Processing Requirement
Some relief for asylum seekers: on May 7, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas ratified a rule regarding applications for employment authorization documents (EADs) filed by people who have applied for asylum.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that although the promulgation of the rule and its ratification “were necessary and justified due to operational realities, Secretary Mayorkas recognizes that work authorization is crucially important to people requesting asylum and reaffirms [DHS’s] commitment to adjudicate applications as quickly and efficiently as possible.” The Department said it “plans to engage in future rulemaking to advance this important interest.”
- “DHS Ratifies Rule That Removes 30-Day EAD Processing Requirement and Acknowledges Importance of Issuing Timely Work Authorizations,” Dept. of Homeland Security, May 7, 2021, https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/05/07/dhs-ratifies-rule-removes-30-day-ead-processing-requirement