President Biden and congressional Democrats to unveil immigration bill

Remigio Civitarese
Febbraio 18, 2021

President Joe Biden's proposed legislative overhaul of the US immigration system, due to be formally introduced in Congress on Thursday, would be the largest in decades, but it faces steep odds. They would receive a permanent residency card, commonly referred to as a "green card", after five years if they pass certain requirements including background checks, and could then apply for citizenship after three years.

The bill would immediately provide green cards to farm workers, those with temporary protected status and young people who arrived in the US illegally as children.

"We have 11 million undocumented people living, working and raising families in our communities without legal status", Sen.

The Trump administration passed more than 400 executive orders to curb immigration and punish the undocumented.

- Grants would be made available to local educational agencies to provide services to unaccompanied migrant children.

Since coming to power, Biden has announced a push to reform immigration and roll back his predecessor's hardline policies, including with the creation of a special task force to reunite families separated by Trump's "zero tolerance" border policy towards undocumented immigrants.

The plan includes $4 billion spread over four years to try to boost economic development and tackle corruption in Latin American countries, to try to address some of the root causes of migration to the U.S.

Additionally, the package would provide funding for refugee-processing facilities in Central America that an administration official described to reporters as a means of eliminating the need for migrants to travel in large caravans across multiple countries.

The bill provides for increased security at ports of entry focused on detecting drugs and other contraband.

Existing criminal penalties for unauthorized immigrants remain in place, including those that bar certain criminals from obtaining green cards.

"This was a day-one commitment of the president, and it is his vision of what it takes to fix the system", a senior administration official told reporters.

Counties and municipalities will be able to petition for additional work visas as needed under the reform bill. This move has been applauded by immigrant advocates who see the use of the word as derogatory and dehumanizing. It would eliminate the penalty barring those immigrants who live in the US without authorization and who then leave the country from returning for three to 10 years.

A senior administration official acknowledged that was intentional.

Where he called for ending the diversity lottery that gives away green cards by random chance, the Biden plan increases the number from 55,000 to 80,000. The bill will be introduced in the House by California Democrat Linda Sánchez and, a week later, in the upper chamber by Sen.

It does not appear that Biden and the Democrats have enough Republican support they would need to pass this in a bipartisan manner.

The legislation faces significant hurdles in a divided Senate still reeling from the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump, who often tapped into anti-immigration rhetoric to fire up his campaign rallies. By now making immigration reform one of his earliest legislative priorities, Biden clearly hopes to avoid the missteps of the Obama administration when immigration reform was delayed and dwarfed by other legislative priorities.

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