President Joe Biden plans to introduce a bill that pave the way for citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, sparking cautious optimism from immigration advocates.
The new president also promised a 100-day stop to deportations of people already in the country, while the bill would recognize the United States as a nation of immigrants, changing the legal term “foreigner” to “non-. citizen”.
Defenders celebrated the proposal, which Biden planned to introduce as early as Wednesday – the same day he took office, as the most progressive immigration law since the failed reforms of Barack Obama’s administration in 2013.
But they warned it was too early to know whether Biden could garner the 60 votes needed to pass the legislation in the U.S. Senate, which is equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, and urged Biden to resort to action from the U.S. executive to guarantee the protection of immigrants. An information sheet describing the proposal has been made public.
“We welcome the efforts to create a path to citizenship for undocumented people in the United States, but this is also a time when we need the new president to use executive power,” said Jacinta Gonzalez, senior campaign organizer in Mijente, who advocates for Latinx and Chicanx people.
She said immigrants have been attacked in the past four years under President Donald Trump, who has pursued strict immigration policies such as forced separation from family, mass deportations, travel bans and restrictions asylum eligibility.
“We need him [Biden] to use all the powers of his office to reduce the harm caused by [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]Gonzalez said.
The law project
If passed, the 2021 U.S. Citizenship Act paves the way for eight-year citizenship for undocumented migrants, who number around 11 million in the country.
The bill would allow undocumented migrants who pay taxes and pass background checks to apply for temporary legal status and apply for green cards after five years.
It would also allow so-called “dreamers” – undocumented people who came to the United States as children – as well as temporary protected status holders and immigrant farm workers to immediately apply for green cards without waiting five years. .
After an additional three years, all green card holders who pass background checks, speak English and show U.S. civic knowledge can apply for citizenship. This route applies to applicants already in the country on January 1, 2021.
The bill would also allow reuniting families separated by current rules. Marriage to a U.S. citizen and other family relationships currently allow immigrants to obtain green cards, but certain barriers are delaying access, according to the American Immigration Council.
These barriers include three- and ten-year visa bans that prevent people from returning to the United States if they leave after having previously been in the country illegally. Bill 2021 would remove these restrictions to allow families to reunite and allow immigrants with family sponsorship to join family members in the United States while waiting for green cards.
Root causes of migration
Biden has vowed to lift Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries on his first day in office. The bill would go further, outlawing discrimination on the basis of religion and restricting future presidents from issuing similar travel bans.
Migration from Central America to the southern border of the United States continues with another caravan from Honduras blocked by Guatemalan soldiers this week, and asylum seekers continue to wait in camps along the Mexican border.
The bill aims to tackle the root causes of migration from Central America and increase aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where two massive hurricanes in November intensified violence and economic hardship existing.
The incoming administration wants to create legal channels to protect the people of Central America as they flee their home countries. Improvements to immigration courts and support for asylum seekers are also offered.
However, Biden said in a December press conference that he did not want “to end up with two million people on our border.” His political adviser, Susan Rice, said on a Spanish wire service that the border will not suddenly open when Biden takes office.
Gonzalez said Biden should use executive action to hold ice abuse accountable and reform the system.
The president has promised a moratorium on deportations for 100 days, but Gonzalez added that an indefinite stop on deportations and execution measures as well as the immediate release of people from detention centers are also needed.
Fairness for farm workers
Leydy Rangel, spokesperson for the United Farm Workers Foundation, said she was “delighted” to read the news of the bill. Rangel paid for his university studies by working on farms. She said her parents, undocumented farm workers in Mexico, would benefit from Biden’s bill if it becomes law.
Growing up, she saw her parents come home from soil-covered work, stooping down to pick and prune crops. “At any time, your parents could be taken into care and kicked out,” she said, describing the anguish of receiving calls from her parents late at night when she got older.
“Farm workers have proven they deserve legal status, but this right has not yet been granted,” Rangel said. “We will finally have the opportunity to be relieved of this pervasive fear that consumes us all life.”
The bill also incorporates the Farm Workers Fairness Act of 2019, which provides for overtime pay for farm workers in all states. Currently, many states do not impose overtime pay on agricultural workers.
Biden’s bill is similar to France’s recent move to extend citizenship to frontline immigrant workers. Farm workers are also essential frontline workers in the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s a great way to honor the country’s essential workers,” Rangel said.
‘Sigh of relief’
Jorge Loweree, director of policy at the American Immigration Council, said he looks forward to seeing the full text of the bill, but feels encouraged by the “broad and generous path to citizenship” he offers.
Over the past decade, the debate around immigration reform has been closely tied to law enforcement, which Loweree says has “operated on steroids in recent years” and created “extraordinary hardship. For immigrants.
The last major immigration legislative change in the United States took place in 1996 and coincided with criminal justice reform initiatives, he explained, marking the beginning of the punitive nature of the laws on immigration. immigration and detention systems in the United States.
The most recent effort to reform the system took place under the Obama administration in 2013. “There is bipartisan support for immigration reform, but it’s a matter of details and political will,” did he declare.
Recently, public support has shifted in favor of immigrants, but he said what that would mean for Biden’s bill is unclear. To reverse Trump’s harsh policies, Loweree said Biden should continue executive action alongside a permanent legislative solution.
But he said if passed, the bill will mean undocumented migrants no longer have to continually look over their shoulders. “Many people will be able to breathe a sigh of relief.”