Today, after months of speculation, and after decades of failed attempts by many to reform the U.S. immigration system, President Biden takes a bold step in fulfilling his campaign promise to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, by sending his bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, to Congress.
Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress
Richard T. Herman, a nationally-renowned immigration lawyer and co-author of the book, Immigrant, Inc. – Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy (and how they will save the American Worker) (Wiley, 2009), says that this new immigration bill, if passed by Congress, will make America stronger:
“Our current immigration system is broken, fails to treat people with dignity, separates families, and undermines our economy and safety. Legalization of undocumented immigrants, many of whom have lived and worked in the U.S. for more than 10 years and have deep roots in the community, deserve an opportunity to join the American family. Similarly, for too long, the U.S. immigration system has disregarded the talents of highly-educated immigrants, many of whom have left the U.S. or have immigrated to more welcoming countries. The Biden Immigration bill is a great first step in modernizing an antiquated system and re-imagining how our immigration laws must reflect our character as a nation of immigrants.”
This bill comes after former President Trump has waged a four-year war on immigrants. His war was against both undocumented, as well as legal immigrants. Leveraging white nationalism ideology and the pandemic, Trump implemented measures to restrict legal immigration and demonize immigrants.
It is anticipated that nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants may be eligible to normalize their immigration status should the Biden bill become law. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of high skilled immigrants, primarily those from India and China, who have been waiting years for a green card, will be able to obtain permanent residency should Congress approve.
The immigration proposal provides the following:
Who Are Eligible?
Those present in the U.S. on or before 1/1/2021, and who pass a criminal background check, would be eligible to apply for temporary legal status. They can apply for green cards after five years if they meet certain requirements, and citizenship three years later;
DACA holders, TPS recipients, and farmworkers who are present on or before January 1, 2021, who meet certain requirements would be immediately eligible for green cards and citizenship three years later;
The Secretary of DHS may waive the physical presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017. They need to be physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and humanitarian purposes;
Keeping families together by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times, increasing per-country visa caps; eliminating so-called “3 and 10-year bars” and other provisions that keep families apart;
Embraces diversity by including the NO BAN ACT that prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans. The bill also includes increasing Diversity Visas to 80,000 from 55,000;
Grow our economy by clearing employment-based visa backlogs, recapture unused visas, reduce lengthy wait times, and also eliminate per-country caps.
The bill also makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the U.S.; improves access to green cards for workers in the lower-wage sector, and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards;
Provides dependents of H1B visa holders work authorization, and children are prevented from “aging out” of the system;
Creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development; gives DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions; incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant higher-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers;
Protects workers from exploitation and improves the employment verification process;
Supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations. The bill also eliminates the one-year deadline for filing for asylum and provides funding to reduce the asylum application backlog;
Improve the immigration court system with new technology; protect the vulnerable by providing judges with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals;
Increases protection for U visa, T visa, VAWA applicants, including raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000; and
$4 billion relief to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to reduce poverty and violence.
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