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The Biden Administration Reversed A Policy That Used The Coronavirus Pandemic To Limit Immigration

One analyst said the policy blocked thousands of people from legally immigrating to the US.

Posted on February 24, 2021, at 7:32 p.m. ET

Joe Biden sits and signs a document at a desk with the presidential seal on it
Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden signs executive orders on Feb. 24, 2021.

President Joe Biden revoked on Wednesday a Trump-era order that temporarily banned green cards for certain groups of people outside the United States, the latest attempt by the new administration to quickly undo the restrictive immigration policies of the former administration.

Former president Donald Trump signed a proclamation in April that suspended access to green cards for certain people outside the US seeking to immigrate legally. That included family members of permanent residents, parents and siblings of US citizens, and thousands of people who come to the country as part of a lottery system. The former president had said that the order was necessary to stop those who posed a “risk” to the labor market during the pandemic. On Wednesday, Biden moved to rescind it.

Biden wrote, "[Trump’s order] 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. And it harms individuals who were selected to receive the opportunity to apply for, and those who have likewise received, immigrant visas through the Fiscal Year 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery.”

Trump’s order, which was signed in the weeks after the pandemic was declared, targeted areas of legal immigration that he had long criticized, including people who obtain green cards through familial relationships of US citizens and permanent residents, as well as people who get status through a visa lottery. He later also signed an order in June that restricted work visas. That order has not been revoked.

Immigration attorneys and experts said Biden’s reversal of the policy would have a significant impact.

“This is literally a life changing order by the President. 7,000 Diversity Lottery winners can now enter the United States without fear of being denied entry to start their own American Dreams. Parents, children, and siblings of US Citizens can now be reunited with their families. … 'Big’ does not begin to describe this Order,” said Charles Kuck, an immigration attorney based in Atlanta, said in a statement.

Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said the order signed by Trump led to thousands of potential immigrants being blocked from entering the country.

“The revocation is a strong statement about the asset immigration represents to the United States, even at a time of economic uncertainty,” she said.

Immigrants who want to live in the US permanently obtain visas through their relationships with family members who are already citizens or green card holders. Some groups of people are able to obtain these permanent visas by having “extraordinary” abilities in the arts and sciences or being a highly specialized and skilled worker.

Each year, the government generally provides around 1 million green cards. About half are given to those who are already in the US and who are able to obtain the status after coming to the country on a separate visa, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.