Publish: 19 Jan 2021, 11:51 am
On Day One of his administration, President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill, aiming to include an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants residing without legal status in the U.S., a massive reversal from the harsh immigration policies of the Trump administration.
The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It 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, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt, reports AP.
The bill is due to be presented after Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday, estimated to run hundreds of pages, according to a person familiar with the legislation and given anonymity to discuss it.
As a candidate, Biden called Trump's immigration behavior an "unrelenting assault" on American values and said that while continuing to preserve border security, he would "undo the damage."
Under the legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it's a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.
The process would be easier for those immigrants. The young people who came illegally as children in the U.S., as well as farm workers and people under temporary protective status, so-called Dreamers, could apply for green cards more quickly if they work, are in school, or meet other criteria.
The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.
For example, it does not include a robust border security element but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other 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.
Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.
During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his “day one” priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump’s policies.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other GOP senators to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.
Even if it involves compromise, this kind of big victory may be crucial as Biden searches for legislative wins in a tightly divided Congress, where Republicans are likely to reject other Biden goals that include scaling back some of the 2017 GOP tax cuts and increasing federal spending.
As a candidate, Biden went so far as to say the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.