President Joe Biden (what a sigh of relief I let out writing that) has released details on the immigration overhaul he’s sending to Congress on day one of his administration, which, mercifully, began today at noon eastern. The fact sheet (currently not available as the transition transfers over into an official administration) said Biden seeks to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system,” and at its center puts all 11 million undocumented people onto a path to citizenship.
“The bill will stimulate our economy while ensuring that every worker is protected,” the fact sheet said. “The bill creates an earned path to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors, colleagues, parishioners, community leaders, friends, and loved ones—including Dreamers and the essential workers who have risked their lives to serve and protect American communities.”
Biden’s Day One legislation and expected executive orders on immigration are a dramatic and welcome departure from the racism and xenophobia of the outgoing administration. "The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes,” the fact sheet said.
Like previously noted, the package will allow undocumented immigrants who have already been registered with the federal government in programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status to apply for immediate relief, along with undocumented farm workers (who have always been essential). “After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens.”
“Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021,” the plan continued. Significant in the plan is that immigrants deported following the previous president’s inauguration can apply for waiver of presence requirement “for family unity and other humanitarian purposes. Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word ‘alien’ to ‘noncitizen’ in our immigration laws.”
While Biden as president will quickly rescind the former administration’s discriminatory and xenophobic Muslim ban, the immigration bill also “includes the NO BAN Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans.” American Immigration Council policy counsel Aaron Reichlin-Melnick dug through further important points from the legislation.
“However, not everything in the bill goes as far as advocates will like,” Reichlin-Melnick explained in the thread. “For instance, we have long been calling for the creation of an independent immigration court system, uncoupled from DOJ. This bill doesn't contain that recommendation. But it does make some important reforms. One major change the bill would make to immigration court is to require the government to provide counsel for children. Under current law, a 5-year-old can legally face an immigration judge without a lawyer. Under the new bill, that wouldn't be allowed. It's a welcome change!”
”One major portion of the bill is designed to address the root causes of migration,” he continued. “Under Trump, the focus was almost entirely on hardening the border to stop people from getting in. This bill (which mirrors legislation previously introduced in the House) focuses on push factors.” The transition team’s plan states the immigration bill “also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.” That program had been rescinded by the outgoing administration.
The proposal has received significant praise from advocates. “President Biden’s new vision for immigration reform is extraordinary and a welcome development for America, including the millions of people who are caught up in an outdated immigration system that no longer meets the needs of the nation,” the American Immigration Council said. In a statement received by Daily Kos, Muslim Advocates executive director Farhana Khera praised No Ban Act’s inclusion in the proposal.
“The NO BAN Act’s inclusion in the U.S. Citizenship Act is a true victory for the Muslim community,” Khera said. “Muslims and our allies worked arm-in-arm with Sen. Coons and Rep Chu—going office-to-office and district-to-district to gain support for the bill. Now, President Biden has included it in his day one immigration bill. This is a historic validation for Muslims and a massive step forward towards ensuring that the next Donald Trump won’t be able to wield anti-Muslim hate as a political tool by banning people because of their background or faith.”
“Separated families. Attacks on DACA & TPS. Banned Muslims/Africans. Gutted asylum. Caged children & countless abuses on our people,” tweeted the UndocuBlack Network. “Advocates pushed, and now the Biden-Harris admin takes step one to end years of injustice.” It’s time to put 11 million people on a path to citizenship now.