WASHINGTON—President Biden on Wednesday revoked most immigration restrictions that former President
imposed last year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The White House said it was revoking parts of a ban that blocked entry into the U.S. to family members of U.S. citizens, some immigrants with employment-based green cards and winners of the diversity visa lottery. Mr. Biden has left in place restrictions that block the entry of foreigners with several types of work-based visas including the H-1B visa for high-skilled foreign professionals. That aspect of the ban is set to expire on March 31.
The Trump administration, which imposed the ban on most forms of legal immigration in April and expanded it in June, said at the time it had been necessary to prevent foreigners from coming to the U.S. and taking jobs when unemployment had skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic. A Wall Street Journal review found the ban didn’t have the intended effect: Jobs allotted to foreigners, typically in high-skill roles as software engineers or seasonal positions such as working at a resort, went unfilled.
The ban “harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,’’ the White House said. “It also harms industries in the United States that utilize talent from around the world.’’
The revoked ban applied to applicants for U.S. permanent residency who are parents or siblings of U.S. citizens, along with applicants for several types of employment-based permanent residency cards, called green cards.
The ban also blocked tens of thousands of winners of the diversity visa lottery, a program that awards 55,000 green cards a year to foreigners from countries with low levels of immigration to the U.S. Those winners are typically given until the end of the year their green card is issued to move to the U.S. The ban had threatened to prevent many of the winners from doing so.
Sven Olensky, who works in technology security in Atlanta, has wanted to bring his 80-year-old father to the U.S. from Germany since last summer, when his mother died. But his father, who is retired, was blocked under the ban.
“Implying that my dad would come over and steal jobs from Americans, I mean that’s ridiculous,” he said.
The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, estimated last year that the ban blocked about 26,000 immigrants from moving to the U.S. each month it was in place.
Business groups have ramped up pressure on the Biden administration in recent weeks seeking to fully repeal the ban, saying it is hitting their ability to plan for an improving economic outlook and slowing the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
Jon Baselice, executive director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the administration will reconsider and lift the H-1B visa and other employment-based restrictions.
“Revoking the immigrant visa ban is certainly welcome news, but many companies are very frustrated over the lack of action on the nonimmigrant restrictions,” he said. “Those restrictions will continue to inhibit economic growth and job creation at a time we need it the most.”
Write to Michelle Hackman at Michelle.Hackman@wsj.com
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Appeared in the February 25, 2021, print edition as ‘Biden Overturns Virus Curbs on Immigration.’
Source: WSJ – US News