What do you think will change for TPS and other Nepali visa holders under Biden?
Pabitra Benjamin: A big part of our litigation strategy has been to buy time to get into a more pro-immigration government. With the Biden administration and a more friendly Democrat-majority Congress, there is now more room to push our demands.
In fact, just a few days ago, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said she wanted to introduce legislation for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and TPS recipients from day one to provide them Green Cards so we are in a wait-and-see mode.
The other strategy is to look at a settlement of the case and see what comes out of it. From the very beginning litigation by itself was not going to give us what we wanted which is permanent residency. It is a tool to extend the timeline to fight for permanent residency.
We have already started having meetings with the transitional team of the Biden administration and are looking towards a redesignation of all countries to maintain their TPS status.
If redesignation is not possible, we are also asking for other ways to help TPS status holders to stay in the US.
One such alternative is to get Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) that will allow those who have lost TPS status to get DED status which can be designated by the President. Redesignation requires Department of Homeland Security to do country assessments and is a long, convoluted process that involves embassies and the State Department for an 18-month extension. We are hopeful that if the redesignation happens, it will be for all TPS countries and not on a country-by-country basis.
But both these have the ultimate objective of buying time to help TPS holders win permanent residency through Congress. The President doesn’t have the power to provide permanent residency, it is up to Congress to pass the legislation which Biden would then have to sign off on.
We were involved in writing the legislation of HR-6 (American Dream Provide Act 2019). We made sure that all Nepalis who were in the US in 2015 and qualified for TPS but did not get it would also qualify for permanent residency. This means PR for 30,000 Nepali, which is a big deal.
We are fighting a bigger fight than just TPS. We are also looking at comprehensive immigration reform. It is broken, and reform is overdue by decades, so we want to push for comprehensive immigration reform including a pathway to permanent residency for undocumented workers or those in the middle of a status. Within that it is to make sure TPS holders and DACA recipients get permanent residency.
Adhikaar does not necessarily work with diversity visas, but we expect the Biden administration to roll back the limit on diversity visas by the Trump presidency.