Biden's Immigration Reform Bill Introducing Eight-year Pathway to Citizenship
When it comes to immigration, the US truly is a world leader. According to Pew research, the US has more immigrants than any other nation by a substantial margin, with around 50 million residents having been born in another country. To put this into perspective, this means that around 20% of all international migrants live in the US. The same research also found that the US/Mexico border represents the largest corridor of migration on the planet. Indeed, it is estimated that 12 million Mexicans reside in the US. In terms of diversity, while the US is not technically number one for immigrant diversity (the UK is higher), it is still extremely high, scoring 91 out of 100 on the diversity index. The US also has numerous undocumented migrants, estimated to be in the region of 3.2-3.6% of the total population (10.5 m to 12m people). It is for this reason that the new US president, Joe Biden, has focused on assisting the vast number of undocumented migrants living in the country. In this article, we will outline Joe Biden's Immigration Reform Bill, which will introduce an eight-year pathway to US citizenship.
What Is The 2021 US Immigration Reform Bill?
In the words of the White House announcement on the new Bill on 20th January 2021, "President Biden is sending a bill to Congress on day one to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system. The Bill provides hard-working people who enrich our communities every day and who have lived here for years, in some cases for decades, an opportunity to earn citizenship".
After four years of damaging immigration policies towards undocumented migrants during the Trump presidency, Joe Biden has made it a priority to pivot the US back to a country that welcomes and encourage immigration from around the world. The United States Citizenship Act, which was introduced to the House of Representatives in February 2021, aims to reform the current US immigration policy. The Bill includes a range of measures, including:
- creating a new pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
- boosting the number of visas available in the US – for example, the number of employment-based green cards will increase from 140,000 to 170,00
- Improving access for highly skilled workers – especially for those with PhDs in STEM subjects
- Reducing processing times
- Keeping migrant families together
- Increase diversity of migrants – this will be achieved through the NO BAN Act, which aims to stop discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans – a clear reference to the Trump era ban of nationals from certain Muslim countries.
The Bill also aims to improve border security and technology, address the root cause of migration, and support asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants entering the US.
What Is The Eight-Year Roadmap To Citizenship?
The primary aim of the Biden administration is to bring millions of undocumented migrants out from the shadows and to regularise their immigration status in the US. Doing so will mean that they are eligible for the same protection and assistance afforded to those with a valid immigration status. The Bill's announcement stated, "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 new policy will be aimed squarely at helping those labelled the 'dreamers' who are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a programme which was introduced by Obama and Trump rescinded in 2017. It is also intended to assist those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and immigrant farmworkers.
The aim is that by providing migrants with a green card after five years, after a further three years, they can apply to become US citizens. To do so, applicants will need to pass certain background checks and demonstrate their English language proficiency.
The Bill also intends to remove the word "alien" from the immigration lexicon and replace this with "noncitizen".
House of Representatives Votes To Pass The American Dream And Promise Act Of 2021
On 18th March 2021, the House of Representatives voted to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021. This Act does not include the full suite of changes to the immigration system the Biden administration intends to introduce, but it does cover the pathway of citizenship. The statement of administration policy states that the Act is "a critical milestone toward much-needed relief for the millions of undocumented individuals who call the United States home. Dreamers and TPS recipients are over-represented as essential workers and are helping to keep our economy and communities afloat during a global pandemic. Yet, these individuals continue to live in a state of precariousness and fear. Ensuring that Dreamers and TPS recipients have a clear path to citizenship would deliver much needed economic security and stability to millions of people who currently face perpetual uncertainty and vulnerability as a result of their immigration status". By passing the Act, it is believed that over two million dreamers will now be on a path to citizenship, in addition to around 300,000 migrants with Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.
The news that Biden's administration has been able to act so quickly to bring a Bill to the House of Representatives which reverses much of the damage imposed by Donald Trump and puts millions of vulnerable adults, children, and families on a secure road to US citizenship, and to have the Bill pass, should be warmly welcomed by all. The passing of this Bill, and hopefully, the new ones which will be introduced to the House in the coming months, will go a long way to realising Biden's goal of restoring faith in immigration. After all, immigration should be celebrated for the many opportunities it brings, including cultural, economic, and protection and security. We will keep you up to date with developments
in US immigration law as they happen in the coming weeks, months, and years.