President Joe Biden unveiled his immigration plan on Thursday, a proposal that offers one of the fastest pathways to citizenship of any measure in recent years.
However, the plan doesn’t contain any details on enhanced border security, which past measures have included as a way to win Republican votes.
Congressional Democrats released the legislation Thursday on Capitol Hill. And, although their party controls Congress, with a 50-50 tie in the Senate it will be a tough slog for Biden’s plan, which will provide a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Biden tapped the children of immigrants take the lead in Congress. The legislation’s main sponsors are Democratic Rep. Linda Sánchez of California, the sixth of seven children raised by Mexican immigrants, and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the son of Cuban immigrants.
‘We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform,’ said Menendez said in unveiling the 353-page legislation.
Menendez said Democrats have failed in the past because they have too quickly given in ‘to fringe voices who have refused to accept the humanity and contributions of immigrants to our country and dismiss everything, no matter how significant it is in terms of the national security, as amnesty.’
He noted he’s been speaking to Republican colleagues in an effort toward ‘putting the pieces of a puzzle together’ on a bill that would receive enough votes to pass. He acknowledged the final product is likely to change significantly. But he also suggested that elements of the proposal could be included through a parliamentary maneuver in a budget bill that would only require 51 votes.
Sanchez pointed out the bill also addresses the ‘root causes’ of immigration.
‘Our border policy is broken, period,’ Sanchez said. ‘But this bill employs a multipronged approach that will manage the border, address the root causes of migration crack down on bad actors and create safe and legal channels for those who are seeking protection.’
Biden said in a statement Thursday that immigration reform is ‘long overdue.’
‘The legislation I sent to Congress will bring about much needed change to an immigration system where reform is long overdue,’ he said.
‘These are not Democratic or Republican priorities – but American ones.’
Biden tapped the children of immigrants take the lead in Congress: the legislation’s sponsors are Democratic Rep. Linda Sánchez of California, the sixth of seven children raised by Mexican immigrants, and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the son of Cuban immigrants.
President Joe Biden will unveil his immigration plan on Thursday, a proposal that offers one of the fastest pathways to citizenship of any measure in recent years
Key points in immigration bill
Immediately provide green cards to farm workers, immigrants with temporary protected status and young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, the so-called Dreamers
A five-year path to temporary legal status for others. If they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements, then, after three years, they can pursue citizenship
Raise the current per-country caps for family and employment-based immigrant visas
Eliminate the penalty barring those immigrants who live in the U.S. without authorization
Replace the word ‘alien’ with ‘noncitizen’ in law
More resources for judges
Expand transnational anti-drug task forces in Central America
Enhance technology at the border
Set up refugee processing in Central America
$4 billion over four years to Latin American countries to address root causes of immigration
At his town hall meeting with CNN on Tuesday, Biden made a gaffe when he said most of those on his fast-track to citizenship are not Hispanic.
‘The vast majority of the people, those 11 million undocumented, they’re not Hispanics; they’re people who came on a visa — who was able to buy a ticket to get in a plane, and didn’t go home,’ the president said.
‘They didn’t come across the Rio Grande swimming,’ he added to laughter from the audience. ‘Sorry, that’s the Irish in me.’
The largest percentage of undocumented immigrants come from Mexico, according to the Pew Research Center.
In 2018, roughly 11.2 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 25% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (4%) and El Salvador (3%).
The ‘U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021’ will reflect Biden’s immigration priorities, including expanding the refugee resettlement program and deploying more technology to the Southern border.
The bill Democrats introduced Thursday would immediately provide green cards to farm workers, immigrants 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 also 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.
The bill would expand transnational anti-drug task forces in Central America and enhance technology at the border. And it would set up refugee processing in Central America, to try to prevent some of the immigrant caravans that have overwhelmed border security in recent years.
The plan includes $4 billion spread over four years to try to boost economic development and tackle corruption in Latin American countries, to lessen pressure for migration to the U.S.
‘He’s just looking forward to having a bill to sign at his desk,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of Biden at her press briefing on Thursday.
The bill contains no provisions on enhanced border security, which will make it a tough sell to Republicans on Capitol Hill – above migrants at the U.S. Mexico border flee agents
Biden’s provides an immediate pathway to citizenship for farmworkers, DACA recipients, and Temporary Protected Status holder – above a citizenship ceremony in New York
At his town hall meeting with CNN on Tuesday, Biden made a gaffe when he said most of those on his fast-track to citizenship are not Hispanic
Comprehensive immigration reform has struggled to gain traction in Congress for decades.
Menendez was part of the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators who negotiated a 2013 immigration reform bill that ultimately collapsed. Prior to that, a bill backed by President George W. Bush failed in Congress as well, after multiple attempts at compromise.
While Biden is pushing a comprehensive bill, he suggested earlier this week he may be open to a more piecemeal approach.
During the CNN town hall Tuesday night, Biden said that while a pathway to citizenship would be essential in any immigration bill, ‘there´s things I would deal by itself.’
That could leave the door open to standalone bills focused on providing a pathway to citizenship for various populations.
Still, publicly the White House is emphasizing that its goal is a comprehensive plan.
‘The president feels that all of these requirements that are in the bill – these components of the bill – are what makes it comprehensive,’ Psaki said this week. ‘They all need to be addressed. That´s why he proposed them together.’