Biden’s immigration bill may be divided to pass – Yahoo News

The Guardian

Democrats unveil proposal to give undocumented migrants pathway to citizenship

Proposed legislation would allow eligible immigrants to apply for temporary legal status and right to work The proposed new laws would allow some undocumented immigrants to embark on an eight-year path to citizenship. Photograph: Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images The Biden administration and congressional Democrats formally unveiled legislation on Thursday that would dramatically reshape the nation’s immigration laws and create a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. After two decades of failing to advance meaningful immigration reform, Joe Biden and his allies on Capitol Hill are reviving the effort, which the new president has signaled will be a top domestic priority. The proposal, built from the framework Biden outlined on his first day in office, will be introduced by California congresswoman Linda Sánchez, and in the Senate by New Jersey senator Bob Menendez, both Democrats with experience negotiating immigration legislation in Congress. “We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform,” Menendez said during a virtual press conference. Democrats won a mandate in 2020, the senator argued, to rebuild the nation’s immigration system after four years of Donald Trump’s “hateful horror show”. The centerpiece of the legislation is an eight-year pathway to citizenship for the nation’s nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, White House officials said on a call with reporters on Wednesday night. Under the plan, eligible undocumented immigrants would be allowed to live and work in the US. After five years, they could apply for a green card, giving them permanent status in the US and the opportunity to gain citizenship after three more years. Some immigrants, including farmworkers, those immigrants granted temporary status after fleeing war and natural disasters, and undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, would be eligible to apply for green cards immediately, the officials said. After three years, they could apply to become US citizens. To avoid a surge at the border, petitioners must have been in the US by 1 January 2021, and would have to pass all required criminal and national security checks as well as file taxes and pay application fees. The proposal also attempts to streamline and expand the legal immigration system by raising the current caps on family and employer-based immigrant visas. Spouses, legal partners and children of permanent residents would be exempt from the current per-country caps, making it easier for them to join family already in the US. It would also explicitly include same-sex partners as immediate relatives. Another aspect of the plan would repeal Clinton-era immigration rules that bar undocumented immigrants who leave the US from lawfully re-entering for three or 10 years, depending on how long they were unlawfully present in the country. It also changes the term “alien” – a word immigrants advocates have long denounced as dehumanizing – to “noncitizen”. Congress has tried unsuccessfully to pass an immigration overhaul several times in recent decades, relying on a formula meant to attract bipartisan support that conditioned a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people on enhanced border security and enforcement. This bill breaks from that model. Instead of focusing on border security as a central component of the legislation, White House officials say the bill aims to address the “root causes” of migration. To that end, it would invest $4bn over four years in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with the hope of preventing people from fleeing as a result of poverty and violence. The legislation would also establish processing centers throughout the region, where people from Central America could apply for refugee status to come to the US legally. An official said the goal was to stem the flow of migrants to the US border, a journey that has become increasingly perilous. The overhaul faces an uphill climb, as Democrats hold only narrow majorities in the House and Senate. Passing the bill in the Senate would require support from at least 10 Republicans, a tall order on an issue over which the parties have only grown more divided in recent years. Under Trump, Republicans rallied around many of the former president’s hardline, isolationist policies that enraged Democrats and independents. Officials dodged questions of how Biden planned to proceed if he could not win the support of Republican lawmakers. The Senate is split 50-50 and some activists are pushing Biden to use to a parliamentary tactic that would allow Democrats to pass certain immigration measures without any Republican support. “We’re focused on getting the bill introduced,” one senior White House official said on the call, adding later that it was “too early to speculate” about its prospects or the legislative path it might take. During the virtual press conference on Thursday, Sanchez and Menendez, the bill’s chief congressional backers, said they hoped to work with Republicans on the bill but had no intention of abandoning the push for sweeping reform in exchange for a more piecemeal approach. “The reason we have not gotten immigration reform over the finish line is not because of a lack of will,” Menendez said. “It is because time and time again we have compromised too much and capitulated too quickly to fringe voices who have refused to accept the humanity and contributions of immigrants to our country and dismiss everything … as amnesty.” On his first day in office, Biden set about undoing many of his predecessor’s immigration policies, including preserving Daca, an Obama-era program that shields immigrants brought to the US as children from deportation, halting construction on the border wall and repealing a ban on travelers from predominantly Muslim nations. Though presidents have broad authority on immigration, there are limits to what can be achieved by executive action. This was thrown into sharp relief after Trump tried to end the Daca program, leaving hundreds of thousands of recipients in a state of limbo amid the ensuing legal battle. At a CNN town hall on Tuesday, Biden reinforced his support for a sweeping overhaul that would establish a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US. But also said he was open to a targeted approach that would pave a way for smaller, dedicated groups of immigrants to obtain citizenship “in the meantime.”

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Biden’s immigration bill may be divided to pass – Yahoo News

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