In Brief

Breaking Down Biden’s Immigration Actions Through Abbreviations

Abbreviations are a fixture of U.S. immigration policy. CFR explains some of the most commonly referenced agencies, policies, and programs, and what President Biden is doing about them.

While president, Donald J. Trump enacted hundreds of immigration-related policy changes. President Joe Biden has swiftly halted or reversed some of Trump’s signature policies and sent lawmakers a bill outlining his own ambitious vision for the immigration system. 

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Many immigration agencies, policies, and programs are known by their acronyms and shorthand titles, making it difficult to keep track of them. Here is a guide to some of the most frequently referenced.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

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Immigration and Migration

Joe Biden

Donald Trump

ICE is the federal agency tasked with arresting and deporting unauthorized immigrants inside the United States. Such removals lagged under Trump, compared to President Barack Obama’s first term, largely because of pushback from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions run by state and local officials who refuse to cooperate with ICE. Still, Trump’s administration expanded ICE’s powers, including its ability to quickly remove unauthorized immigrants without a judge’s sign-off. Hours after his inauguration, Biden’s administration ordered ICE to review its enforcement policies and announced a one-hundred-day moratorium on most deportations. A judge temporarily blocked the moratorium, and ICE has continued to carry out deportations.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

This Obama-era executive action allows roughly 650,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to stay and work legally. Trump vowed to shut down DACA, and though the Supreme Court prevented that, his administration continued to hamstring the program. Trump’s White House also rescinded a similar program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), which had never taken effect. Biden supports both programs, and his bill would give DACA recipients a three-year path to citizenship. 

Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP)

Also known as “Remain in Mexico,” MPP is a 2019 program requiring that people seeking asylum at the United States’ southern border—more than sixty thousand so far—wait in Mexico while backlogged U.S. courts consider their cases. The Trump administration sought to definitively turn away asylum seekers through so-called safe third country agreements, only one of which it implemented and which Biden’s administration has begun terminating. Biden, who campaigned promising to end MPP, immediately stopped placing new asylum seekers into the program and put it under review. Starting January 19, the administration will also slowly begin allowing the twenty-five thousand people in Mexico with pending cases to enter the United States.

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H1B and Other Worker Visas

Trump long sought to restrict foreign worker visas, and issued several last-minute rules to restrict the H1B program, which gives temporary work authorization to specialized professionals. He had also previously stopped the issuance of several types of foreign worker visas, including H1Bs and H2Bs, which are temporary visas for nonagricultural workers. Though observers say Biden could retain some restrictive policies toward foreign workers, he has so far signaled a willingness to expand visa protections. 

For example, Biden delayed by nearly nine months a final-hour Trump rule to replace the lottery for selecting H1B recipients with a wage-based system, which experts say could hurt less-experienced international workers and small- or medium-sized U.S. companies. Biden also withdrew a Trump-era plan to end work authorization for certain dependent spouses of H1B holders who have H4 visas. Additionally, his bill would broadly authorize H1B holders’ dependents to work and stop children from “aging out” of the system. It also eliminates per-country visa caps and improves employment verification through the E-Verify system. 

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United States

Immigration and Migration

Joe Biden

Donald Trump

The U.S. flag appears against a yellow sky with a dark fence looming behind it.
A U.S. flag flies in front of the U.S.-Mexico border fence near Campo, California. David McNew/Getty Images

Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA)

The FSA is a 1997 court settlement that outlines protocols, including standards of care, for the detention of migrant children. The Trump administration repeatedly violated the FSA while claiming the settlement forced it to separate children from their parents. During Trump’s presidency, authorities separated more than 5,500 families, ostensibly to protect children, including from traffickers and other adults who could harm them. However, critics say the policy was instead used as a deterrent. Biden swiftly rescinded Trump’s zero-tolerance policy, which led to separations, and signed an executive order creating a task force to begin reuniting still-separated families. He has also pledged to codify protections for migrant children. Still, advocates say these steps are insufficient.

Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

TPS is a program established by Congress and operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that grants temporary legal status to people from designated countries struck by conflict, disaster, and other extraordinary circumstances. The United States currently extends TPS to ten countries; Trump’s administration terminated it for El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan, potentially affecting more than four hundred thousand people [PDF]. However, these terminations have yet to take effect due to legal challenges. Biden has pledged not to send TPS holders back to unsafe countries and to reverse Trump-era TPS decisions that “do not appropriately consider the facts.” He also renewed TPS for Syrians and, unlike Trump, is permitting new applications for that program. Furthermore, his bill proposes a three-year path to citizenship for TPS holders.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)

DED is a program similar to TPS, and allows the president to grant people from unstable places temporary protection from deportation. Unlike TPS, however, it has no statutory underpinning. Before leaving office, Trump granted DED to Venezuelans, affecting up to two hundred thousand people. Biden reinstated DED for an estimated 3,600 Liberians, for whom the Trump administration had allowed DED protections to lapse. No other country is currently designated for DED.

Central American Minors (CAM) Program

Announced in 2014 by then Vice President Biden and later expanded, CAM allowed parents living legally in the United States to request refugee consideration for their children and certain relatives living in Central America’s violent Northern Triangle region. Those denied were instead considered for temporary legal residence. However, the Trump administration discontinued the program in 2017. Biden’s bill would reinstate CAM. For now, he has issued an executive order instructing his DHS secretary to consider restoring part of the program.

Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Program

Sometimes called the visa or green card lottery, the DV is a program administered by the State Department that provides visas to people from countries with low levels of emigration to the United States. Trump framed it as a national security threat, called for Congress to end it, and enacted pandemic-related travel restrictions that prevented more than a thousand lottery winners from immigrating before their visas expired. Thousands of additional diversity visas could expire next month if Biden does not repeal the proclamations. Biden’s bill proposes raising the annual ceiling of diversity visas to eighty thousand from fifty-five thousand. He has also sought to protect immigrant diversity by ending Trump’s so-called Muslim and African bans, which restricted U.S. visas for people from certain countries with large Muslim populations.

Mia Speier contributed to this report.

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