In a recent announcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Biden-Harris administration is ushering in a range of actions aimed at bolstering enforcement at the Southwest Border and streamlining the processing of work authorizations. These initiatives are coupled with the administration’s persistent calls for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reforms. The unfolding situation in Venezuela has also prompted redesignation and extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to ongoing extraordinary and temporary conditions.
Enhanced Border Enforcement:
A key focus of the administration is to intensify enforcement across the Southwest Border to combat smuggling of persons and narcotics. From April 2022 to September 12, 2023, significant strides have been made with the arrest of nearly 17,000 suspected human smugglers by CBP and HSI. The aggressive pursuit of smugglers has led to over 1,500 convictions, signaling the administration’s commitment to enforcing immigration laws and securing the border.
The Department of Defense is reinforcing these efforts by deploying additional military personnel to augment logistics at the border, thus allowing more Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to focus on their core mission and responsibilities.
Accelerated Processing of Work Authorizations:
The administration is endeavoring to enhance the efficiency of Employment Authorization Document (EAD) applications processing. Initiatives include dedicating more personnel to reduce median processing times from 90 to 30 days for certain parolees and implementing improvements that expedite work authorizations for asylum seekers, refugees, and other noncitizens.
In a bid to encourage eligible individuals to apply for work authorizations, over 1.4 million notifications have been disseminated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in multiple languages, and outreach personnel have been deployed to educate recently arrived migrants.
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelans:
The administration is extending and redesignating Venezuela for TPS due to unsafe conditions, impacting hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. This designation allows eligible Venezuelan nationals to apply for work authorization and provides temporary protection from removal.
Streamlining Removals and Returns:
Since May 12, accelerated removals and returns have witnessed over 253,000 individuals being returned to 152 countries, marking a substantial increase from the comparable pre-pandemic period. The administration’s collaboration with international partners and agreements with multiple countries have streamlined the returns process, emphasizing the administration’s determination to manage immigration effectively.
Congressional Appeal and Supplemental Funding:
President Biden continues to urge Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reforms. Meanwhile, a supplemental funding request of $4 billion addresses immediate DHS needs to manage the Southwest Border safely and humanely. Over $770 million has been allocated to support communities receiving migrants through various programs.
The Biden-Harris administration remains steadfast in its pursuit of a balanced immigration system, employing every available tool to secure borders, enforce immigration laws, and establish lawful immigration pathways. While efforts to combat smuggling, accelerate processing for work authorizations, and provide temporary protection to Venezuelans are commendable, the onus remains on Congress to enact lasting reforms and pass fully funded emergency appropriations to realize a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system.