Democrats Unveil Biden’s Sweeping Immigration Overhaul

Date: 2021-02-18 17:51:58

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President Joe Biden’s administration is joining Democrats on Capitol Hill to unveil a major immigration overhaul that would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.

The legislation was unveiled Thursday morning by a dozen Democratic lawmakers, including lead sponsors California Rep. Linda Sanchez and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, who are both children of immigrants.

The sweeping overhaul reflects the broad priorities for immigration reform that Biden laid out on his first day in office, including an increase in visas, funding to process asylum applications and new technology at the southern border.

“It’s a bill we can all be proud of,” Menendez said on a webinar to announce the legislation. “It will modernize our system, offer a path to citizenship for hardworking people in our communities, reunite families, increase opportunities for legal immigration, and ensure America remains a powerhouse for innovation and a beacon of hope to refugees around the world,” he said.

But while the plan offers one of the fastest pathways to citizenship of any proposed measure in recent years, it does so without offering any enhanced border security, which past immigration negotiations have used as a way to win Republican votes. Without enhanced security, it faces tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

The bill would immediately provide green cards to farm workers, those with temporary protected status and young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. For others living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, the plan establishes a five-year path to temporary legal status, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. Then, after three years, they can pursue citizenship.

The plan would raise the current per-country caps for family and employment-based immigrant visas. It would eliminate the penalty barring those immigrants who live in the U.S. without authorization and who then leave the country from returning for three to 10 years. It also would provide resources for more judges, support staff and technology to address the backlog in processing asylum seekers

Comprehensive immigration reform has struggled to gain traction in Congress for decades and while Biden is pushing the comprehensive bill, he suggested earlier this week he may be open to a more piecemeal approach to help win bipartisan support.

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