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Trump’s Final Days: A Last Burst of Immigration Restrictions

Jan 19, 2021

Trump announces he will suspend H-1B and other temporary work visas.

The Trump administration has implemented dozens of immigration regulations over the last four years, and even after losing his re-election bid, President Trump showed little sign of slowing down. His restrictive immigration policies have been a hallmark of his presidency, and he attempted to continue the trend despite his lame-duck status.

Donald Trump has systematically built an “invisible wall” designed to keep out two-thirds (at least 700,000) of aspiring Americans. The speed and breadth of these changes to the immigration landscape has far outpaced his predecessors’. During the two-term presidencies of Barack Obama and George W. Bush combined, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued some 10 final rules. USCIS under Donald Trump issued almost 20 final rules before the end of his single term.

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It is extremely unusual for an administration to propose new regulations during its final months, since there is such limited time to go through the laborious process of finalizing them before the swearing-in of a new president with new priorities. Between Sept. 1, 2016 and the swearing-in of President Trump, USCIS proposed only two new regulations, neither of which touched on political hot buttons.

In contrast, since Sept. 1, 2020, USCIS proposed four new and controversial regulations that would dramatically change employment-based immigration, family-based immigration, the asylum system, and surveillance overall. And that’s not counting a raft of “Interim Final Rules” issued during the same period, which skip the public comment process and take effect immediately.

Here’s a tracker showing the end result of the Trump administration’s immigration regulations—the ones he finalized before leaving office, and also the plans that never made it off the shelf.

The chart includes regulations at USCIS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — all part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — plus related immigration regulations at the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of State (DOS), and the Department of Labor (DOL).

Regulation Agency Proposed rule Comments closed Final rule Effective date
H-1B worker registration requirement USCIS 12/3/2018 1/2/2019 1/31/2019 4/1/2019
Fee changes for Student and Exchange Visitor Program ICE 7/17/2018 9/17/2018 05/23/2019 06/24/2019
H-2A agricultural worker requirements DOL 11/09/2018 12/28/2018 9/20/2019 10/21/2019
Immigrant investor program (EB-5) modernization USCIS 1/13/2017 4/11/2017 07/24/2019 11/21/2019
Fee to register H-1B petitions USCIS 09/04/2019 10/04/2019 11/08/2019 12/09/2019
H-2B worker recruitment modernization USCIS 11/9/2018 12/10/2018 11/15/2019 12/16/2019
Inadmissibility on “public charge” grounds USCIS 10/10/2018 12/10/2018 08/14/2019 02/24/2020 (latest news)
Inadmissibility on “public charge” grounds DOS [Interim final rule] N/A 10/11/2019 02/24/2020 (latest news)
Extension of stay for H-2B nonagricultural workers during pandemic USCIS [Temporary final rule] N/A 5/14/2020 5/14/2020
Extension of stay for H-2A nonagricultural workers during pandemic USCIS [Temporary final rule] N/A 8/20/2020 8/19/2020
Fee changes for USCIS USCIS 11/14/2019 12/30/2019 08/03/2020 10/02/2020 (blocked in court)
H-1B worker classification changes USCIS [Interim final rule] N/A 10/08/2020 12/07/2020
H-2A agricultural worker wages DOL 07/26/2019 09/24/2019 11/05/2020 12/21/2020
Immigration court fees DOJ 02/28/2020 03/30/2020 12/18/2020 01/19/2021
H-1B wage minimum increases DOL 10/08/2020 [Interim final rule] N/A 01/14/2021 [Final rule] 03/15/2021
H-1B wage-based lottery USCIS 11/02/2020 12/02/2020 01/08/2021 03/09/2021 [delayed until 12/31/2021]
Privacy exemptions for background check system USCIS 07/21/2018 08/30/2018 Never finalized
Rescinding the International Entrepreneur Rule USCIS 5/29/2018 6/28/2018 Never finalized
Special Immigrant Juvenile Petitions DOJ/USCIS 10/16/2019 11/15/2019 Never finalized
Biometrics expansion within the U.S. USCIS 09/11/2020 10/13/2020 Never finalized
Establishing maximum stay for student visa holders ICE 09/25/2020 10/26/2020 Never finalized
New requirements for green card sponsors USCIS 10/02/2020 11/02/2020 Never finalized
B-1 visas in lieu of H-1Bs DOS 10/21/2020 12/21/2020 Never finalized
Biometrics expansion at entry/departure CBP 11/19/2020 12/21/2020 Never finalized
Inadmissibility and deportability on “public charge” grounds DOJ Never proposed
Requirements for filing motions and appeals USCIS Never proposed
Electronic processing of immigration applications USCIS Never proposed
Rescinding work permits for H-4 spouses USCIS Never proposed
Changes to the medical certification for disability exceptions USCIS Never proposed
Visa security program fee changes ICE Never proposed
Changing “Adjustment of Status” to end concurrent filings USCIS Never proposed
New requirements for USCIS-approved doctors USCIS Never proposed
Eligibility of “Designated School Officials” ICE Never proposed
Immigrant investor program (EB-5) regional centers USCIS Never proposed
Changing Optional Practical Training for international students ICE Never proposed
Changes to tourist and business travel visas CBP Never proposed
Restricting unlawful presence waivers USCIS Never proposed
Unlawful presence rule for temporary visa holders USCIS Never proposed
L-1 multinational employee visa changes USCIS Never proposed
U visa eligibility for crime victims USCIS Never proposed
Asylum-related regulations:
Treatment of children crossing the border (Flores) ICE 9/7/2018 11/6/2018 8/23/2019 10/22/2019 (blocked in court)
Asylum Eligibility and Procedural Modifications (Southern Border) DOJ/USCIS [Interim final rule] N/A 07/16/2020 07/16/2020
Removing 30-day processing for asylum-seeker work permits USCIS 09/09/2019 11/08/2019 06/22/2020 08/21/2020
Restricting work permits for asylum seekers USCIS 11/14/2019 01/13/2020 06/26/2020 08/25/2020 (partially blocked in court)
Asylum Interview Interpreter Requirement USCIS [Temporary final rule] N/A N/A 9/23/2020
Southern Border expulsions CDC 03/24/2020 [Interim final rule] N/A 09/11/2020 [Final rule] 10/13/2020
Asylum Cooperative Agreements with Third Countries DOJ/USCIS [Interim final rule] N/A 11/19/2020 11/19/2020
Procedures for Asylum and Bars to Asylum Eligibility DOJ/USCIS 12/19/2019 1/21/2020 10/21/2020 11/20/2020 (blocked in court)
De facto asylum ban DOJ/USCIS 06/15/2020 08/14/2020 12/11/2020 01/11/2021 (blocked in court)
Transit ban DOJ/USCIS 06/16/2019 [Interim final rule] N/A 12/17/2020 [Final rule] 01/19/2021
Security Bars and Processing DOJ/USCIS 07/09/2020 08/10/2020 12/23/2020 01/22/2021
Eliminating work permits for individuals under removal orders USCIS 11/19/2020 12/21/2020 Never finalized
Security Bars and Processing due to COVID-19 DOJ/USCIS Never proposed
Limiting discretionary work permits and parole USCIS Never proposed

Note: this chart doesn’t include non-regulatory actions, like the extension of the immigrant and temporary worker entry bans after Dec. 30, 2020, and the long-rumored birthright citizenship ban, which would have been immediately challenged in court.

Even if many of these Trump administration measures don’t prevail in court, or if they are undone by the Biden administration, it’s going to take time for the United States to re-establish itself as a nation that welcomes people from around the world to once again pursue the American dream.

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