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The Biggest Immigration Stories of 2023

Dec 29, 2023

Capitol at night

2023 was another challenging year for the U.S. immigration system. The Biden administration struggled to manage a record-breaking number of crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, changes in the business immigration space, and more. Let’s dive into some of the biggest immigration stories of 2023.

U.S. Borders See Record-Breaking Number of Crossings

U.S.-Mexico Border

Migration and border policy were at the forefront of U.S. immigration in 2023. After more than three years, the controversial Trump-era border policy Title 42 came to an end on May 11, triggering broader questions about border restrictions and how to manage increased migration to the U.S.

In a post-Title 42 world, the Biden administration struggled to manage record-breaking numbers of migrant crossings at both the Mexican and Canadian border. According to official U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) records, CBP agents encountered around 2.5 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2023. Crossings at the Canadian border also reached record levels over the last year, despite dangerous conditions and freezing temperatures during the winter months. The most recent CBP figures show 189,402 encounters at the northern border in 2023, which include illegal crossings and those arriving at legal ports of entry.

Throughout 2023, the Biden administration faced increasing pressure from fellow Democrats and regional leaders to address the root cause of record-high migration from Latin America. Biden has historically promised stronger economic partnerships with Latin American countries to tackle immigration issues and bolster regional trade, but critics claim the president failed to deliver on this promise in 2023.

As a result of political pressure at home and abroad, the Biden administration introduced a number of policies to deter migrant crossings, including denying asylum to migrants who pass through another country before reaching the U.S. Immigration advocates denounced such measures, likening them to the harsh border policies of the former Trump administration.

Despite persistent border challenges, Biden also opened more legal immigration pathways for migrants in 2023, expanding the country’s humanitarian parole programs and temporary protected status (TPS) designations for several countries.

The Year of Fee Increases

In the beginning of 2023, USCIS unveiled a proposal to increase application fees across various immigrant categories in the U.S. While initial media coverage has emphasized substantial price hikes for employment-based visas like the H-1B, family-based immigrant applications would face significant increases as well. This includes a notable doubling of total fees for many marriage-based green card applications, rising from $1,760 to over $3,640. Additionally, fees for accompanying children will no longer be discounted, aligning them with adult application costs.

Many in the immigration industry were anticipating fee hikes, as the agency is obligated to review its immigration fee structure every two years. Given that USCIS relies on filing fees for approximately 96% of its funding and has not introduced new fees since 2016, the proposed adjustments aim to address financial considerations and sustain agency operations.

In addition to fee changes for U.S.-based applications with USCIS, the U.S. Department of State also increased fees for certain nonimmigrant visas in 2023. So far, USCIS has not announced when the new filing fees will take effect, but immigration experts predict that the fee hike could be formalized as soon as early 2024.

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U.S. Immigrant Populations are Growing and Changing

In 2023, the immigrant population in the U.S. continued to experience unprecedented growth and transformation. The immigrant population in the U.S. reached an all-time high in the last year, with experts attributing the growth to several factors, including a gradual restart of visa processing, which had slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more immigrant visas were issued in 2023, immigration experts were hopeful that the U.S. immigration system was functioning more effectively, with more people being admitted after a period of restricted immigration.

The Biden administration’s efforts to welcome tens of thousands of people under new humanitarian parole programs in 2023 also contributed to the increase, in addition to a surge of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

New studies on immigrant communities in the U.S. also provided a comprehensive picture of the changing dynamics within this diverse group, shedding light on both the challenges and opportunities that come with a shifting demographic landscape. In 2023, the undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. saw significant changes, with nearly every region of the world experiencing a steady increase in migration to the U.S.

Business Immigration Changes

Interested in the business immigration space? Check out some of the top business immigration stories of 2023 and what U.S. employers and foreign workers should expect for the year to come.

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