As the Biden administration enters its third year in office, immigration reform remains a top priority. With the new year comes renewed hope that 2024 could finally bring major changes to the outdated US immigration system.In his January State of the Union address, President Biden unveiled several ambitious reform proposals aimed at creating a more just, humane, and efficient immigration process.
Key measures include increasing limits on employment-based green cards, expanding visa programs, providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and undocumented farmworkers, improving asylum processing, and investing in smart border technology.While negotiations with Congress will be challenging, immigration advocates see real potential for progress in the coming year.
Public support for immigration reform is at an all-time high, and addressing this complex issue remains critical for both America’s economy and its moral leadership on human rights.As debates heat up in Washington, millions of immigrants watch closely, hoping 2024 may deliver the long-awaited overhaul of immigration policies they desperately need. From visa backlogs to family separation to ‘Dreamer’ status, many critical issues hang in the balance.
This article provides an in-depth look at Biden’s immigration reform vision for 2024. It analyzes the key proposals on the table, the main sticking points expected in Congressional negotiations, predictions from experts on what changes are most likely to materialize this year, and what the new policies could mean for different groups of immigrants seeking entry or citizenship.
Whether an elusive grand bargain can be struck remains uncertain, but for the first time in years, comprehensive reform appears closer than ever. Read on for everything you need to know about the fight unfolding in Washington and what it means for the future of immigration in America.
For immigrants looking to come to the US, those already here, or US citizens connected to immigrant communities, understanding this ever-evolving landscape is essential.
Border Security Dominates Immigration Debate
Much of the immigration debate has focused on border security rather than legal immigration pathways. Congressional Republicans are pushing for increased border enforcement, while Democrats advocate a more balanced approach. In December 2023, a bipartisan group of Senators negotiated changes to asylum rules and border security funding. However, no comprehensive immigration reform legislation is expected before the 2024 election.
President Trump and other Republican presidential candidates have promised hardline immigration policies if elected in 2024. Proposals include mass deportations, ending birthright citizenship, and limiting legal immigration.
Modest Bipartisan Progress on Legal Immigration
While major immigration legislation remains unlikely, Congress has made some modest bipartisan progress increasing green cards for certain groups. In December 2022, President Biden signed a government funding bill including a measure to recapture unused family-based green cards from previous years. This will help reduce enormous backlogs and long wait times for green cards, particularly for immigrants from India and China.
There is also bipartisan support for providing more green cards to foreign graduates of US universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. However, proposals remain stalled due to broader disagreements over immigration policy.
Pandemic Visa Backlogs Improving
Lengthy pandemic-related visa backlogs have significantly improved. Wait times for green card applicants and temporary work visas have returned to pre-pandemic levels or better at most US consulates.For example, wait times for employment-based green card interviews are under 12 months for most countries. Tourist visas are generally available within days, compared to 400+ days in early 2022.
The State Department hired more staff, streamlined processes and expanded facilities to address the visa backlog crisis. Barring an unforeseen event, wait times are expected to continue improving in 2024.
Green Card Interviews Waived for Many
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that many green card applicants can now skip in-person interviews.Previously, all green card applicants had to be interviewed by a USCIS officer – often resulting in long wait times for appointments. But as of October 2022, USCIS can now waive interviews for renewal green cards and some initial green cards.
This policy change will significantly speed up processing. USCIS aims to cut renewal green card processing times by more than a year. Waived green card interviews will also help USCIS address its own pandemic backlog.
Court Rulings on DACA and TPS
There have been significant court decisions regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs in 2023. These programs allow immigrants brought to the US as children and those from disaster-stricken countries to live and work legally in the US.In October 2022, a federal appeals court upheld DACA after a Texas judge ruled it illegal in 2021.
The Biden administration can continue granting DACA renewals but cannot accept new applications. The case may reach the Supreme Court.Separately, courts have ordered the Biden administration to expand TPS to more nationalities. In January 2023, the government added Myanmar, Somalia, Syria and Yemen to the TPS program.These court rulings provide some measure of stability and relief for DACA recipients and TPS beneficiaries. However, permanent legislation is still needed to protect these vulnerable groups long-term.
Fewer H-1B Visas Available
The H-1B visa program allows US companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. Demand for H-1B visas continues to dramatically outstrip supply – with only a 27% selection rate for 2023.Stricter policies under the Trump administration have reduced overall H-1B approvals. The Biden administration has kept some Trump-era rules, while rescinding others. Court battles continue over which policies can remain in place.With no changes to the annual 85,000 cap on H-1B visas, the program will remain severely oversubscribed. The lack of available H-1B visas causes uncertainty for US employers and foreign talent.
Outlook for Green Cards and Immigration Reform
Major changes to legal immigration remain unlikely in the lead up to the 2024 elections. Competing priorities, divided government and partisan disagreements have stalled efforts at comprehensive reform.However, modest bipartisan measures that increase green cards and improve processes are possible. Addressing green card backlogs and passing targeted bills for groups like DACA recipients have broader support in Congress.In the long run, most experts argue that major immigration reform will require compromise from both parties on security concerns, legal immigration pathways and the status of undocumented immigrants already in the country. But such compromises have proven extremely difficult to achieve.
For now, green card applicants can expect continuing focus on border security, slowly improving visa processing times and uncertainty around programs like H-1B and DACA. Those seeking legal immigration pathways or citizenship will need a measure of patience and flexibility amidst the gridlock in Washington.Yet immigrants continue making vital economic and cultural contributions across America. Public attitudes are gradually shifting in favor of immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
So while today’s politics may be challenging, there remains hope that comprehensive reforms could eventually resolve our broken immigration system.