President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on Day One of his administration, seeking to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for 11 million people currently living in the U.S. without legal status.
The legislative proposal, which is scheduled to be sent to Congress on Wednesday, also bears a key focus on addressing the root causes of migration from Central America.
Under Biden’s bill, immigrants who have been living in the US since January 1 will be placed on the eight-year pathway and issued a temporary legal status for five years. They will then be given a green card once they meet certain requirements – such as completing background checks – before being permitted to apply for citizenship three years later.
For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.
News of the proposed bill comes as a thousands-strong caravan of Honduran migrants continue to march towards the US border in anticipation of the end of Trump’s presidency – ignoring Biden’s pleas to return home.
President-elect Joe Biden plans to unveil a sweeping immigration bill on Day One of his administration, seeking to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for 11 million people currently living in the U.S. without legal status
Biden’s immigration legislation puts him on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations
News of the proposed bill comes as a thousands-strong caravan of Honduran migrants continues to march towards the US border in anticipation of the end of Trump’s presidency – ignoring Biden’s pleas to return home
Biden’s immigration legislation puts him on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations.
It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.
Expected to run hundreds of pages, the bill is set to be introduced after Biden takes the oath of office Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the legislation and granted anonymity to discuss it.
As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an ‘unrelenting assault’ on American values and said he would ‘undo the damage’ while continuing to maintain border enforcement.
The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.
For example, it does not include a robust border security element, but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other visa programs.
For the most part, the bill consists of three overarching pillars: provisions to address the causes of migration, border management and a path to citizenship.
Under Biden’s bill, immigrants who have been living in the US since January 1 will be placed on the eight-year pathway and issued a temporary legal status for five years. They will then be given a green card once they meet certain requirements
Those marching towards the US border from Honduras will not qualify for the legalization program outlined in Biden’s bill – because it only applies to those living in the US prior to January 1
Biden’s focus on Central America reflects a pledge the President-elect’s made to senior officials in the region that he will advocate for policy changes aimed at what causes swaths of migrants to come to the US to seek refuge.
‘Ultimately, you cannot solve problems of migration unless you attack the root causes of what causes that migration,’ one official told the Washington Post pointing to the various reasons — from economic to safety — that drive migrants to flee their home countries. ‘He knows that in particular is the case in Central America.’
The official also acknowledged that they’re aware of recent reports of caravans of migrants heading towards the border in anticipation of Trump’s final day in office.
Like Biden, they too urged the asylum seekers to return home, pointing out that they will not qualify for the legalization program outlined in Biden’s bill – because it only applies to those living in the US prior to January 1.
The anonymous official told the Post that Biden wants to move refugee and asylum seeks ‘back to a more humane and orderly process’.
‘[But] it’s also been made clear that that isn’t a switch you flip overnight from the 19th to the 20th, especially when you’re working with agencies and processes that have been so gutted by the previous administration,’ they said.
Biden is reportedly seeking to reinstate a program granting minors from Central America temporary legal residence in the United States – a scheme terminated by the Trump administration in August 2017.
He also is hoping to set up a reunification program for Central American relatives of US citizens that would allow those who have been already approved for residency to be admitted into the country – rather waiting at home in lieu of an opening.
Migrants, who arrived in caravan from Honduras and make their way to the United States, kneel to pray in front of the Guatemalan police officers in Vado Hondo
As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an ‘unrelenting assault’ on American values and said he would ‘undo the damage’ while continuing to maintain border enforcement
The Biden proposal also would put in place a refugee admissions program at multiple processing centers abroad that would better help identify and screen those seeking refuge, the Post reported.
Additionally, the 46th US president will also seek to reform border enforcement by calling on the Department of Homeland Security to develop a proposal to implement new security measures and technologies along the border.
‘This is not a wall; this is not taking money from [the Department of Defense], an official told the Post. ‘It’s a very different approach.’
Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.
During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his ‘day one’ priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump’s policies.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other GOP senators to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.
That kind of major win — even if it involves compromise — could be critical as Biden looks for legislative victories in a closely divided Congress, where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities that involve rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.
As a candidate, Biden went so far as to say the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.
Security remains high as migrants who arrived in caravan from Honduras try to make their way to the United States in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, on Monday
Cops arrest a Honduran migrant in Guatemala after he refused orders to disperse from a road where several thousand members of a caravan convened on Monday
Thousands of Honduran migrants, who since Thursday night have marched towards Guatemala in hopes of reaching the United States, were forcefully dispersed by Guatemalan security forces on Monday
Earlier Monday, Guatemalan security forces cleared a road of hundreds of people in a mostly Honduran migrant caravan that had camped out overnight when authorities barred it from advancing toward the United States.
The Guatemalan government said the road in the eastern part of the country reopened to traffic after troops with batons and plastic shields closed in on the migrants just beyond the village of Vado Hondo, about 35 miles from border crossings into Honduras and El Salvador.
With soldiers looking on, groups of migrants, many with children and carrying bags and luggage, then waited in lines to board buses returning them to the El Florido border crossing with Honduras, video footage on social media showed.
The removal of the large group was the latest effort by Guatemalan authorities to break up the caravan, which authorities said numbered nearly 8,000 people, within hours of its departure for the US from Honduras last week.
About 2,000 of the migrants installed themselves on the road after they clashed with Guatemalan security forces on Sunday during a failed effort to make their way past them.
Some people were injured as troops forced the crowd from the road, said Andres Gomez, a Guatemalan in the caravan.
‘This isn’t a war. It’s a caravan with women and children. The soldiers have no right to beat anyone,’ he said. ‘There are women who’ve been beaten, it’s an act of violence.’
Ruben Tellez, a spokesman for Guatemala’s military, later defended soldiers’ use of force, describing it as minimal and proportionate.
‘Their right to migrate is being respected so long as they prove that their entry into the country complies with migratory and sanitary requirements,’ Tellez told Reuters, referring to valid identification documents as well as a negative COVID-19 test taken in the past 48 hours.
After the clearance, groups of migrants went back into Vado Hondo looking for alternative routes, the government said. It was unclear how many were turning back altogether.
A migrant cries along with her child after the police dispersed the caravan of thousands of people that blocked the road in Vado Hondo, Guatemala
Migrants who arrived in caravan from Honduras on their way to the United States are blocked by security forces in Vado Hondo, Guatemala, on Monday
Guatemalan security forces in the village of Vado Hondo fire tear gas while dispersing migrants from Honduras who were blocking a road Monday as part of their efforts to reach the United States and seek asylum from President-elect Joe Biden’s administration