President Biden Proposes Far Reaching Immigration Reforms
On January 20, 2021, his first day in office, President Biden issued five immigration-related executive orders and sent a sweeping immigration reform bill to Congress. Among other things, the executive orders will reverse the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban,” which prohibited travel to the US by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries; halt construction of the border wall; re-commit to the DACA program; and undo the Trump administration’s expansion of immigration enforcement in the US. A sixth executive order requires non-citizens to be included in the US Census and apportionment of congressional representatives.
If implemented, the reform bill (known as the US Citizenship Act of 2021) would be the most significant immigration legislation since 1986. Details of the bill include:
- Creation of an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes, and immediate green card eligibility for DACA and Temporary Protected Status recipients;
- Provisions to address lengthy visa backlogs for family-based and employment-based green card applicants;
- Strengthening border security with new screening technologies, officer training, and infrastructure at ports of entry instead of the physical wall championed by the former administration;
- Bolstering protections for immigrant workers who are victims of serious labor violations and workplace retaliation;
- Increasing aid to Central America to address the root causes of migration;
- Establishing new processing centers throughout Central America to register refugees and coordinate their resettlement in the US;
- Reinstituting the Central American Minors program to reunify Central American children with their relatives in the US;
- Introducing procedures and oversight mechanisms to address misconduct by the Department of Homeland Security;
- Strengthening penalties for criminal gangs and drug traffickers;
- Rescinding the 3 and 10-year bans for unlawful presence.
The ambitious bill would need 60 votes to pass in the Senate at a time of extreme partisan division and multiple competing crises. Nevertheless, it is a statement of the Biden administration’s immigration priorities and sets the stage for more reform measures to come in the weeks and months ahead.