On his first day in office, President Biden announced his plans to send a bold immigration bill to Congress in the coming weeks. The expansive provisions show that the Biden administration is ready to embrace immigrants as part of the fabric of American society.
Some key parts include:
1. An eight-year pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The bill would provide a five-year path to permanent residence for all undocumented immigrants present in the United States on January 1, 2021, followed by a three-year wait for naturalization. Certain individuals with long-standing ties to the United States and previous vetting by the government would be expedited, including over 1 million people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status—in addition to agricultural workers.
2. Eliminating the three- and ten-year bars and expanding legal immigration.
Many immigrants who could have a chance to legalize their status may not be able to do so. This is because of penalties that prohibit green card applicants from returning to the U.S. for three or 10 years if they depart after being in the country unauthorized. And many of these people who qualify for green cards are required to apply from abroad.
The new bill will reverse these bars which prevent or delay many eligible family members from becoming lawful permanent residents—even if they are already in the United States.
3. Expanding existing immigration channels.
The bill will also make significant changes to the legal immigration system. It will recapture millions of previously unused visas to reduce green card backlogs, eliminate per-country caps on visas, and provide rapid paths to a green card for children and spouses of permanent residents. It will also prevent children of H-1B visa holders from “aging out” and being forced to leave the United States.
4. Untangling immigration enforcement from comprehensive solutions.
Since 2003, Congress has authorized over $330 billion on immigration enforcement—and the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents nearly doubled. Yet we have not seen Congress pass any measures to support immigrants in over 30 years despite having consistently expanded the enforcement system.
President Biden’s bill is different than previous efforts to pass a comprehensive bill because it is not directly tied to immigration enforcement measures, which have been the singular focus of immigration policy for years.