Biden-Harris Administration Uses the Power of Immigration to Rebuild Our Relationships with Other Countries, Build Our Economy Back Better, and Maintain Our Science and Innovation Edge


July 20, 2021
Contact: Jose Magaña-Salgado (| Jill Welch (

Washington, D.C.—The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration commends the Biden-Harris Administration for its leadership in implementing policies that help rebuild America by welcoming undocumented, international, and other immigrant students to our campuses and communities. Last November, the Presidents’ Alliance issued a number of key recommendations for creating a more humane immigration system, restoring our competitiveness for global talent, and providing protection and opportunities for the most vulnerable. The following statements offer insights on progress to date.

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Presidents’ Alliance stated: “The Biden-Harris Administration inherited not only a long-standing broken immigration system but also the impact of the harm caused over the past four years to our campuses, communities, and nation through the anti-immigrant policies of the prior administration and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In spite of these challenges, the administration has managed to implement a number of key policy changes in its early days, and we look forward to continuing to work with the White House and the agencies to expand protection and opportunity for undocumented, international, and refugee students.

On November 6, 2020, we called upon the incoming administration to, on day one, restore Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to its full original terms and use Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to protect upwards of 2.2 million undocumented people who cannot be safely returned to their home countries. We asked that the administration immediately pause and withdraw all proposed rules and regulations undermining international students and scholars, including the duration of status and H-1B related rules. Later, we urged the administration to begin the hard work of rebuilding our nation’s refugee program, including exploring new U.S. education pathways for refugee students. And, in spite of continuing and new challenges, including ongoing visa processing delays for international students and the recent, deeply disappointing decision regarding DACA from the Texas federal district court, the administration has fulfilled its promise in rolling back policies and working to make needed progress in these vital areas. The administration’s actions have set the stage for the critical advances we need if we are to thrive as a nation, both at home and abroad.”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has proven to be a success, and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration commends President Biden for building on this success. The administration has strengthened the DACA program and reopened it for initial applications through executive action; included Dreamers in the U.S. Citizenship Act; and expanded HEERF and HEERF II funds to undocumented students. Further, the Presidents’ Alliance appreciates the administration’s stated intention to continue to protect DACA and to appeal the recent decision made by the 5th Circuit Court. Protecting all Dreamers, including both those with and without DACA, as well as TPS holders, is essential.

Establishing a robust roadmap to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented population permits the over 427,000 undocumented students enrolled in higher education, including 181,000 DACA-eligible students, and the additional 1.3 million eligible individuals in the U.S. to no longer live at the mercy of biannual renewals and uncertainty. The Presidents’ Alliance and our members stand eager to continue to work with President Biden in pursuing long-term and durable solutions

Jose Magaña-Salgado, DACA Recipient and Director of Policy and Communications for the Presidents’ Alliance stated: “I commend the administration’s commitment to restoring DACA thus far, but more can, and should be done. We urge the administration to continue and expand the work on DACA, including reducing backlogs, processing applications faster, regularly engaging with stakeholders to implement DACA, and implementing our previous recommendations. Finally, we strongly commend the administration’s use of TPS to extend protections to Venezuela, Haiti, Somalia, Yemen, Burma, and other countries; and encourage them to continue to use their TPS authority even more broadly.”

Christian Penichet-Paul, Director of the Higher Ed Immigration Portal at the Presidents’ Alliance for Higher Education and Immigration stated: “The Biden administration must continue to protect DACA recipients and other undocumented youth who came to the U.S. as children and have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. We encourage the White House to continue to work with Congress to find a permanent legislative solution. It should also direct U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjudicate DACA renewal applications in a timely manner. The Higher Ed Immigration Portal highlights how DACA allows thousands of individuals to pursue higher education, help fill critical skills shortages, and become better positioned to support their families, communities, and—as a result—the U.S. economy.”

International Students and Scholars

Jill Welch, senior advisor to the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “Six months into the Biden-Harris administration, the United States is back on the world stage. By focusing on improving policies that align with our values as a nation that welcomes immigrants, international students, scholars, and refugees, the White House has made a number of important changes to set us on the right path. 

International students contribute immensely to our campus, communities and country. They create jobs: according to NAFSA, 8 jobs are created for every 3 international students present in the United States. They benefit American students: a 2016 study found that a gain in every ten international graduate students was associated with an increase in domestic students, and with no adverse effects on the enrollment of under-represented U.S. students. They drive science and innovation: to cite one powerful example, the first two vaccines in use in the United States were developed by immigrants. And international students improve our relations with other nations (62 leaders from 58 countries studied in the United States earlier in their careers.) International students are vital to rebuilding our economy, strengthening our security and advancing scientific breakthroughs. For example, a 2021 study on undergraduate students finds that the presence of international students leads to an increase in the number of U.S. students receiving bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. 

The Biden-Harris Administration has taken vital first steps toward restoring our place as the preeminent destination for study and research. A few highlights of achievements to date include:

  • On day one, the White House announced a reversal of the travel ban on Muslim majority countries.
  • This spring, Secretary of State Blinken announced that international students would be allowed National Interest Exceptions to attend classes this fall.
  • On July 6, the Biden Administration withdrew a regulation proposed by the Trump administration that would have created unnecessary uncertainty for international students about whether they could complete their programs.
  • To build on these and other important policy changes, we look forward to collaborating with the Administration to design and implement an international student recruitment and retention strategy. 


Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “In addition to issuing a refugee cap of 62,500 for FY21, President Biden issued Executive Order 14013 on February 4, 2021 instructing agencies to submit a plan to welcome refugees by exploring the use of private sponsorship programs in order to facilitate and expand refugee resettlement. 

The Presidents’ Alliance is partnering with other organizations on a broad-based initiative focused on increasing U.S. education pathways for refugee students. Today, only small numbers of refugee students make their way to the U.S. to study, enriching U.S. college and university campuses with their resilience, skills, and diverse perspectives and backgrounds. The administration has an opportunity to incorporate college- and university-based sponsorship initiatives as a critical component of expanding opportunities for U.S. institutions to sponsor refugees formally. College and university-based sponsorship will improve refugee integration outcomes, expand access to higher education for refugee students, capitalize on the many resources available in and through campus communities, and reaffirm the United States’ role as a leader in helping refugees reach safety.”


The non-partisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities and nation. We work to advance just immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus level that are consistent with our heritage as a ‘nation of immigrants’ and the academic values of equity and openness. The Alliance is composed of over 500 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.