What's in Joe Biden's sweeping immigration bill being rolled out in Congress?

Ruben Hill
February 19, 2021

But E-Verify, which checks a person's legal status to work in this country, "will not be mandatory" for USA employers, and Biden has said he would not expand the border wall.

President Joe Biden's proposed legislative overhaul of the US immigration system, due to be formally introduced in Congress on Thursday, would be the largest in decades, but it faces steep odds. They would immediately become eligible for green cards and could apply for citizenship after three years.

Farmworkers, immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, and people with temporary protected status - granted to those whose homelands are deemed too risky to return to - would have the fastest route to naturalization.

The path to citizenship only applies to people who have been in the country since January 1, 2021. Anyone who entered the country illegally after that date would not qualify.

Biden's bill includes some enforcement provisions such as increased border technology to interdict drug traffickers and smugglers, higher penalties for employers who exploit undocumented laborers in the United States, and increased funding for immigration courts.

- Grants would be made available to local educational agencies to provide services to unaccompanied migrant children. And it would try to reduce the burden at the border by setting up refugee processing in Central America, to try to prevent some of the immigrant caravans that have overwhelmed border security in recent years.

'The president feels that all of these requirements that are in the bill - these components of the bill - are what makes it comprehensive, ' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said this week.

- Eliminating the word "alien" in US law and replace it with "non-citizen". This move has been applauded by immigrant advocates who see the use of the word as derogatory and dehumanizing.

- Increasing the per-country caps, clearing visa backlogs and eliminating discrimination for family-based immigration.

A senior administration official acknowledged that was intentional.

Where he called for ending the diversity lottery that gives away green cards by random chance, the Biden plan increases the number from 55,000 to 80,000.

Since coming to power, Biden has announced a push to reform immigration and roll back his predecessor's hardline policies, including with the creation of a special task force to reunite families separated by Trump's "zero tolerance" border policy towards undocumented immigrants.

However, getting the legislation passed, particularly in the Senate, is a tall order: Democratic senators, despite having a majority in the chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris' deciding vote, would need 10 Republican votes to do so thanks to the filibuster.

If Democrats decide to go at it alone, they could pass some form of the bill, but that move could also contradict the message of unity and bipartisanship Biden campaigned on.

Conversely, if they wait for Republican support, Congress could be looking at another failed attempt at immigration reform.

The lawmakers did suggest a willingness to compromise further down the road.

"We all know that when you introduce a bill, oftentimes, the end result is not exactly the starting result", Sanchez said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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