Biden to send Congress immigration reform bill after being sworn in
President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday will send a comprehensive immigration reform bill to Congress shortly after being sworn in to office, proposing overhauls to key parts of the country’s system that would include a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and other groups.
The proposed legislation, titled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, provides a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, includes additional funding for technology along the border, and aims to address the root causes of migration in Central America, where migrants have fled by the thousands to the U.S. in recent years.
“The American public know their immigration is not working the way it should be, and we need a complete overhaul that both protects the American people but is also consistent with our values, and that’s what the president-elect intends to do with this legislation,” an incoming White House official told reporters in a call detailing the package.
If passed, the legislation would create an immediate pathway to green cards for certain individuals, including beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, known as Dreamers. Those individuals could then apply for citizenship three years after getting a green card.
Others who do not fall into that category would be eligible for a pathway to citizenship over the course of eight years.
The bill would also seek to overhaul aspects of the legal immigration system. It would expand certain visa programs, such as providing dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization and preventing children from aging out of the system.
Other parts of the bill would target investments in border security and foreign aid intended to slow the flow of migrants toward the U.S.
The Biden proposal would codify plans to spend $4 billion over four years to address corruption, poverty and other issues in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that have forced citizens there to seek refuge elsewhere.
Biden, who plans to halt construction of Trump’s wall along the southern border upon taking office, would also authorize funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry and approve allocating additional funding for screening technology.
The bill marks the first big legislative swing of the Biden presidency, and it’s unclear whether it will garner bipartisan support. Trump was never able to muster support for a comprehensive immigration package, instead mostly implementing his agenda via executive action.
Republicans have already expressed skepticism about providing a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country without documentation, which is often referred to as amnesty.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) prevented Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security from getting a quick confirmation vote, arguing Alejandro Mayorkas “declined to say he would enforce the laws Congress has already passed to secure the border wall system.”
There are some immigration-related policies Biden will implement without Congress.
Biden on Wednesday is expected to revoke the emergency proclamation that sped construction of a wall along the border with Mexico. He will also reinstate normal visa processing practices with 13 countries, many with Muslim-majority populations, in a reversal of Trump’s travel ban.
Biden is separately expected to take executive action solidifying DACA and TPS after both have come under legal scrutiny, though officials did not elaborate on what those orders would look like.