Joe Biden’s administration has announced a sweeping immigration bill that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of immigrants already in the country and provide a faster way for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children to gain citizenship.
Here’s what the bill, titled the US Citizenship Act of 2021, announced on Thursday, February 18 includes:
1. Plan for a pathway to citizenship- The bill cuts the time to acquire citizenship to eight years instead of 13.
Individuals would be in a temporary status for five years, with three years until they get citizenship, amounting to an eight-year path.
While undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, who fall under a form of humanitarian relief known as Temporary Protected Status or who are farmworkers can go directly to green cards if they meet requirements, including passing background checks.
But to be eligible for the bill’s legalization plan, immigrants must have been in the country before January 1, 2021.
2. Biden’s proposed bill, if passed, would remove the word “alien” from US immigration laws, replacing it with the term “noncitizen.”
According to the administration the change, is “to better reflect the President’s values on immigration.”
The term “illegal alien,” is seen as a dehumanizing slur by immigrant rights advocates, and was well used during the Trump era.
3. The bill provides funding to US Citizenship and Immigration Services to chip away at the backlog of asylum applications.
4. The bill provides funding for more immigration judges with emphasis on access to counsel.
It authorizes funding for counsel for children and vulnerable individuals, and eliminates the one-year limit for filing an asylum case.
5. The bill repeals the bars to reentering the United States if an individual had previously been illegally residing in the country
It increases the number of available so-called diversity visas, which are awarded by random selection in select countries to promote immigration from places that don’t otherwise send many immigrants to the US.
6. The bill would increase the number of visas granted annually from 55,000 to 80,000.
The legislation proposes creating a commission composed of employers, labor unions and civil rights advocates to make recommendations on improving worker verification.
7. The measure would also increase protections for immigrants who come forward to report labor violations and increase penalties for employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.
8. Invest in US-Mexico border and Central America.
The bill would help South American countries tackle smugglers and narcotics and trafficking networks. It would seek to create legal and safer pathways for migration by setting up refugee processing in Central America and would create a $4 billion investment plan in the region.
The legislation will be hard to pass in Congress, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has just a five-vote margin and Senate Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to pass the measure in the Senate as the Senate is divided 50-50.