Chicago Law Office of Christine Contreras

Mid-Year Review: Recent Trends and Shifts in United States Immigration Policies


Immigration policy in the United States is a dynamic and often contentious issue, reflecting the nation’s values, economic needs, and security concerns. Staying informed about recent changes is crucial for understanding the evolving landscape and its implications. Over the past six months, there have been several significant shifts in United States immigration policies, driven by executive actions and operational adjustments by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This mid-year review explores these developments and their potential impacts.

Executive Orders

New Process to Promote the Unity and Stability of Families

Most recently, President Biden just announced an unprecedented executive order that will provide legal protections to the undocumented spouses of United States citizens. The order is expected to affect around 500,000 people, shielding them from deportation, giving them a pathway to residence, and allowing them to work legally in the United States.

The new process will allow the noncitizen spouse to apply for permanent residence from within the United States and be processed while living here. These applications will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and the noncitizen spouse needs to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be present in the United States without admission or parole;
  • Have been continuously present in the United States for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024;
  • Have a legally valid marriage to a United States citizen as of June 17, 2024;
  • Have no disqualifying legal history and do not pose a threat to public safety or national security.

New Actions for Securing the Southern Border

Another recent change has been the Biden’s administration’s admission of the need for increased control of the southern border with Mexico, as the influx of immigrants, particularly to major urban centers, has drawn attention to the scale of the issue.

Originally, the Biden administration had distinguished itself from the previous Trump administration with its more immigration-friendly policies. However, as the number of immigrants at the border reached record heights of 250,000 people per month, even some Democrats were forced to admit that the current system was not working.

Just this month, President Biden announced new actions for securing the border, including these key points:

  • Barring migrants who cross the southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum
  • Strengthening the Asylum Screening Process and adding new actions to more quickly resolve immigration cases
  • Revoking visas of CEOs and government officials who profit from migrants coming to the United States unlawfully
  • Expanding efforts to dismantle human smuggling and support immigration prosecutions
  • Enhancing immigration enforcement
  • Introducing more measures for seizing fentanyl at the border

At the same time, the administration has stayed open minded about non-immigrant visas, such as travel and temporary worker visas. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security announced that in the first half of fiscal year 2024 (October 2023 to March 2024), the State Department issued nearly 5.2 million nonimmigrant visas worldwide.

Updates and New Efficiencies at USCIS

Meanwhile USCIS has implemented a number of recent changes that are designed to add convenience for applicants and streamline application processing. Some examples of these changes include:

  • The addition of an e-filing option for a number of immigration applications
  • Increased ability to check the progress of applications using myProgress
  • Removal of additional biometrics fees (like fingerprints and photos) for most types of applications
  • More convenient resolution of SSN issues for naturalization Applicants, who can now request an original or replacement Social Security number (SSN) or card and update their immigration status with the Social Security Administration (SSA) without having to separately visit an SSA office as they had to do previously
  • Removal of the requirement that civil surgeons sign medical examination forms no more than 60 days before an individual applies for an underlying immigration benefit, changing that term to indefinite
  • Launch of a new Enterprise Change of Address (E-COA) self-service tool to allow customers with pending applications to update their address with USCIS more easily
  • Increase of processing fees for many applications, which, while unfortunate, is an attempt to more adequately cover the agency’s costs and presumably add further efficiencies

The past six months have seen significant changes and trends in United States immigration policies, driven by executive orders and operational adjustments by USCIS. These developments reflect ongoing efforts to address long-standing issues within the immigration system while responding to new challenges and opportunities. Staying informed about these changes is essential for understanding their potential impacts and navigating the evolving landscape of United States immigration.

As always, if you have any questions about how these changes affect your personal situation, do not hesitate to reach out to me!