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Illegal immigrants would have an eight-year path to citizenship.
On day one of his presidency, President-elect Joe Biden plans to introduce an amnesty bill that would give at least 11 million people living in the United States illegally a path to U.S. citizenship. The proposal shows Biden's clear intention to radically depart from President Donald Trump's immigration policies, which offered "zero tolerance" for illegal immigration.
The Associated Press reported that Biden's plan will give migrants living illegally in the United States "one of the fastest pathways to citizenship" of any major immigration legislation proposed in recent years, but will not include provisions to tighten border security. Biden will introduce the bill, which is expected to be hundreds of pages long, after he is sworn in as president Wednesday.
On the campaign trail, Biden promised that as president he would "take urgent action to end the Trump Administration's draconian policies" that he claimed were "grounded in fear and racism." He vowed to end Trump's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting every immigration offense, which led to migrant parents being separated from their children — a policy the Trump administration reversed after public outcry — and pledged to "aggressively advocate for legislation that creates a clear roadmap to legal status and citizenship" for illegal aliens.
The AP detailed how the Biden bill would make good on these promises:
Under the legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it's a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.
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.
The last major piece of immigration legislation was considered by Congress under President Obama and included border security provisions in an attempt to win Republican support for amnesty. Unlike the Obama amnesty legislation, the Biden bill will not include any provisions to increase border security, a controversial decision that is all but sure to rally most Republicans to oppose the bill.
The bill also reportedly includes provisions to "address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning." Biden's campaign website calls for a $4 billion foreign aid package for Central America purportedly to give governments in the region resources to fight gang and gender-based violence, improve their legal and educational systems, and tackle corruption.
In a closely divided Congress, Democrats will need Republican support to avoid a filibuster and advance any legislation through the Senate. It remains to be seen if the Democratic Party will engage the "nuclear option" of changing the Senate rules to end the filibuster and prevent the Republican minority from blocking major parts of Biden's agenda, though several Democrats have indicated opposition to that extreme step.
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