As president, Joe Biden will immediately introduce legislation that if passed, would provide a pathway to citizenship for tens of millions of people residing in the U.S. illegally, over an eight-year period.
Biden, who is set to be inaugurated on Wednesday, is reportedly intent on completely reversing President Donald Trump’s policies on immigration, including the previous administration’s asylum and enforcement policies.
Estimates of people without legal status currently living in the U.S. range from between 11 million and 20 million people.
If passed, the bill will provide Biden with an early victory on a campaign pledge he made to Latino voters and would come after Trump restricted immigration and ramped up deportation efforts, though the Obama administration heavily deported illegal aliens as well.
Biden’s legislation “provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, putting passage in a narrowly-divided Congress in doubt,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The bill, which is reportedly hundreds of pages long, is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office and is sworn in.
During his campaign, Biden characterized President Trump’s approach to enforcing immigration law as an “unrelenting assault” on American values, pledging to “undo the damage” while also maintaining border security.
Under the bill, people living illegally in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, will be provided a five-year path to a green card — temporary legal status — provided they pay taxes, pass a background check, and meet other basic requirements, the AP reported. After that, they will be granted a three-year period to become naturalized citizens if that is what they choose to do.
For some illegal immigrants, however, the path to citizenship will be somewhat faster. So-called “Dreamers,” or younger people brought illegally to the U.S. as children and who were granted protected status under President Obama’s DACA order, as well as agricultural workers and those under temporary protective conditions, could qualify more quickly for a green card if they are employed, in school, or if they meet other conditions.
The new legislation, however, is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration bill offered when he was vice president. Lacking in the current bill is the beefing up of border security, instead of calling for the development of new strategies that would enhance security. Also, the current bill doesn’t include a new guest-worker or additional visa programs.
“It does address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning,” the AP reported.
In addition to legislation, Biden is planning to take quick executive action as well, reversing many of President Trump’s orders including reversing bans on people coming from countries believed to support terrorist groups.
Still, some experts believe it won’t be so easy for Biden to suddenly change course.
“I think they’re going to have a difficult time trying to make all the immigration changes that the Biden campaign promised because the Trump administration made a lot of immigration changes, and it’s not going to be so easy to roll them all back as the Biden campaign wishes they could,” Lora Ries, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said last month.
As for Biden, it appears as though his administration could be challenged early on immigration. A new migrant caravan, which Obama and Trump both had to deal with, is reportedly underway from Honduras — and at least some of them are coming because they believe Biden will let them into the U.S.
“What I want for my people, I just want to get to the US because they’re having a new president, with Biden, he’s going to help all of us,” a Honduran migrant told CNN this week. “He is giving us 100 days to get to the US and give us papers so we can get a better life for our kids and families.”
Following news of the new caravan, Trump extended his border emergency declaration until February 2022.
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