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  • Jeff Wang

Biden’s New Immigration Bill Proposal to the Congress

Updated: Mar 15

On February 18, 2021, President Biden had officially proposed the new Immigration Bill to Congress* as part of his commitment to modernize the current immigration system. The purpose of the bill is to bring reunion to families at the border, provide the hardworking people an opportunity to earn citizenship (including undocumented individuals), stimulate the economy, and provide more protection to the workers.


The Immigration Bill, which is called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, mainly includes three parts:

I. Provide pathways to citizenship & strengthen labor protectors;

II. Prioritize smart border controls; and

III. Address root causes of migration.

These three parts will be discussed separately in the following sections.


I. PROVIDE PATHWAYS TO CITIZENSHIP & STRENGTHEN LABOR PROTECTORS


a) Create an earned roadmap to citizenship for undocumented individuals.

The bill will give undocumented individuals opportunity to apply for a temporary legal status, and then apply for green card after five years if they had paid their taxes and pass criminal and national security background checks. Exceptions may apply for Dreamers (immigrant youths who qualify for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act), TPS holders (Temporary Protected Status holders), and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements, where the said categories are eligible for green card immediately under the legislation.

All green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply for citizenships after three years. Although the bill does require the applicant of citizenship to be physically present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021. However, this presence requirement can be waived by the DHS for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 who were previously present for at least three years before the removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes.

Additionally, the bill changes the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration words to show the fact that America is a nation of immigrants.


b) Keep families together.

The Act reforms the family-based immigration system, including recalling unused visas, shorten the processing wait times, increasing per-country visa caps and most importantly, eliminating the so-called “3 and 10 years bars” and other requirements that keep families apart.

The bill also allows approved family-sponsored immigrants to join their family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while they are waiting for a green card.


c) Embrace Diversity

The Act plans to increase Diversity Visas from 55,000 to 80,000.


d) Promote immigration and refugee integration and citizenship.

The Act provides funding to not-for-profit organizations, state and local government, private organizations, educational institutions to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and provide assistant to individuals seeking to obtain citizenship.



e) Grow our economy.

The Act reforms the employment-based visa system, including recalling unused visas, shorten the processing wait times, and eliminate per-country visa caps. The Act makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees to stay in the United States, for workers in lower-wage sectors to apply for green cards and eliminate unnecessary requirements for employment-based green cards.

The bill grants work authorization for H-1B dependents, and children are no-longer limited by the “aging out” requirement.


f) Protect workers from exploitation and improve the employment verification.

The bill requires DHS establish recommendations for improving the employment verification process. It aims to protect the workers suffering from workplace retaliation of deportation as well as immigrant and seasonal workers and increases penalties for employers who violates labor laws.


II. PRIORITIZE SMART BORDER CONTROLS


a) Supplement existing border resources with technology and infrastructure.

The Act allocates authorizes additional funding for the Secretary of DHS to implement technology plan in order to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband at every land, air, and seaport of entry.


b) Manage the border and protect border communities.

The bill provides training and continuing education fund to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism. The Act also creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee, provides more agents to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct. The issuance of department-wide policies is required to govern the use of force.


c) Crack down on criminal organizations

The bill protects migrants suffering from exploitation by enhancing the ability to prosecute responsible individuals in smuggling and trafficking networks.


III. ADDRESS ROOT CAUSES OF MIGRATION


a) Start from the source

The bill allocates funds of the President’s $4 billion four-year inter-agency plan to address the underlying causes of migration in the region.


b) Improve the immigration courts and protect vulnerable individuals.

The Act expands family case management programs, reduces immigration court backlogs, expands training for immigration judges, and improves technology for immigration courts.


c) Support asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations.

The Act deleted the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs.


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* Fact Sheet: President Biden Sends Immigration Bill to Congress as Part of His Commitment to Modernize our Immigration System, White House, Statements and Release.

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