Coalition of 500+ College and University Leaders Mark Progress and Room for Growth for Undocumented, Refugee, and International Students in the First Year of Biden Presidency


January 20, 2022
Contact: Jose Magaña-Salgado (

Washington, DC—Today, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and its 500+ member Presidents and Chancellors look back on one year of policies and action for undocumented, refugee, and international students and scholars under President Biden. The higher education community has seen crucial first steps for our immigrant and international students and scholars, though we note the need for continued progress to create a safe, equitable, and just immigration system for all. We look forward to collaborating with the administration and Congress to design and implement an immigration and higher education strategy focused on legalization, accessibility, and retention.

Jose Magaña-Salgado, Director of Policy and Communications at the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “As a DACA recipient and on behalf of the Presidents’ Alliance, I commend the administration’s commitment to fortifying DACA through updated guidance, a proposed regulation, and defending DACA in the Fifth Circuit. We call upon the administration to commit to expanding DACA through additional guidance and resume engagements with stakeholders and impacted community members. Finally, we also commend the administration’s movement on various TPS designations but encourage the administration to more aggressively use its TPS authority in the coming months.”

Miriam Feldblum, Executive Director of the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “We applaud the Biden administration for undoing some of the significant damage wrought by the previous administration’s policies impacting undocumented, international, refugee, and other immigrant students. Now must be the time to press forward. We commend the administration’s commitment to reinvigorate and expand the refugee admissions program and stand ready to support the State Department’s new private sponsorship initiatives. By including college and university sponsorship of refugee students, we can greatly expand access for refugee learners to higher education.”  

Jill Welch, Senior Policy Advisor to the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “By focusing on improving policies that align with our values as a nation that welcomes immigrants, international students, scholars, and refugees, the Biden administration has made a number of important changes to set us on the right path toward strengthening our economy, protecting our security, and creating greater prosperity for all. We look forward to collaborating with the Administration and Congress to implement national policies that help us compete for and retain international students from around the globe.” 

We look back on the major policies at the intersection of higher education and immigration in Biden administration’s first year and forward to the progress to come:

DACA and TPS Students and Scholars

  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took steps to strengthen and protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), releasing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to officially codify the program.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice has continued to push back on the 5th Circuit decision ruling DACA to be unlawful, officially appealing the decision in September.
  • The Biden Administration designated Burma (Myanmar) and Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and redesignated TPS for Haiti, Somalia, and Yemen as conditions in these countries prevented safe return. However, many countries that meet the criteria for TPS still await designation decisions.
  • Global processing delays at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) continue to make access to TPS, DACA, and work permits a fraught process for applicants, which the administration will need to urgently address in 2022.

Refugee Students and Scholars

  • President Biden raised the refugee cap to 62,500 for FY2021 and 125,000 for FY2022, though it remains to be seen if the administration will have the capacity to admit the full number.
  • President Biden issued an Executive Order 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 Administration affirmed its intent to welcome refugees in a private sponsorship category (also known as P-4).
  • The State Department’s clarification on how consular officers should interpret “residence abroad” when vetting student applicants may help displaced students to better navigate the F-1 visa process. 

International Students and Scholars

  • The White House announced a reversal of the travel ban on Muslim majority countries. However, the administration has yet to provide relief for the 41,000 visa applicants who were denied under this policy.  
  • The U.S. Departments of State and Education issued a Joint Statement of Principles articulating a Renewed Commitment to International Education. Other agencies have shown support as well, including the U.S. Department of Commerce.
  • DHS announced that it is re-establishing the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council
  • The State Department implemented a number of vital changes that make it easier for U.S. colleges and campuses to welcome international students, including:
    • The May 2021 announcement that international students qualified for National Interest Exceptions to COVID-related travel restrictions, thus allowing students to begin planning for fall enrollment.
    • Streamlining visa processes and prioritizing students for interviews so that they could arrive on time, including waiving certain in-person visa interviews.
    • Restoring consular guidance to help students acquire visas without being subjected to speculative determinations about future immigration intent.  
  • The Biden Administration defused the threat of pending regulations proposed by the Trump Administration that would have deterred prospective international students, including:



The nonpartisan, 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, forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus levels 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.