White House Announces Major Immigration Bill

White House Announces Major Immigration Bill

Linda Qiu, Staff Writer

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have unveiled new legislation aimed to reform the U.S. immigration system, titled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. On Feb. 18, Democratic lawmakers announced a sweeping immigration bill that will provide a faster route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as a child, and an eight-year track to citizenship for immigrants already living in the country.

This bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by former chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Rep. Linda T. Sánchez and introduced in the Senate by Senator Robert Menendez. Democratic legislators from California made up over two-thirds of the bill’s supporters in the House. Sánchez has referred to the all-female team of co-sponsors as “the Closers.” The group includes Reps. Judy Chu, Karen Bass, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Zoe Lofgren.

The bill, if passed, makes three groups immediately eligible for green cards and allows them to apply for citizenship after three years: farmworkers, people with Temporary Protected Status, and immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and are protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. People not in any of these groups would wait five years to be able to apply for a green card, and another three years to be able to apply for citizenship, for a total of eight years. It also will address root causes of people fleeing their home countries for the U.S., and includes a four-year plan to reduce poverty, corruption, and violence in Central America.

“The President’s proposal for immigration reform is a starting point for negotiations but it begins from a position of strength, as opposed to proposals that we’ve seen in prior years that condition legalization on massive increases to immigration enforcement, massive increases to personnel, and additional bars to legalization based on criminal conduct,” said Jorge Loweree, American Immigration Council policy director. “This is a meaningful rethinking.”

“President Biden has put forth his vision for robust immigration reform. Now, it’s up to Congress to deliver,” said Rep. Linda Sanchez in a statement. “With a Democratic majority in both Chambers, and an overwhelming majority of the public on our side– as well as a number of legislative tools at our disposal– I believe we will be successful in finally securing solutions.” 

Even with the House majority, Democrats will need at minimum ten Republican supporters in the Senate in order to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. Democrats are willing to make concessions, but not make major compromises during the legislative process. It is not expected that the final Senate bill will reach the same levels of potential immigration reform as Biden’s original proposal. 

 

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