After years of Donald Trump attacking immigrants, President Joe Biden is beginning his tenure by undoing many of the former president’s policies and overhauling the U.S. immigration system.
The Biden administration has what it calls a comprehensive approach to immigration. In his first few hours as president, Biden plans to propose a new bill that would include a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people in the country.
In addition, he issued immigration-related executive actions:
He ordered government to halt the construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and review whether contracts already issued for it could be diverted to other projects, as well as to end the national emergency declaration for the border. Trump used the declaration to justify taking money slated for other means to fund the wall.
He rescinded Trump’s travel ban, which primarily targeted Muslim-majority countries.
Biden launched an effort to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, which allows undocumented young people to remain in the U.S. and work legally. The program remains in effect in spite of Trump’s efforts to end it, but is still facing legal challenges.
Biden is also expected to take more actions on immigration:
Biden will reinstate deportation priorities undone by Trump, who encouraged immigration agents to pursue removal for all undocumented people rather than focusing first on criminals and repeat border-crossers.
The onslaught of immigration reforms signals a new and welcomed era for immigrants, who were among Trump’s favorite scapegoats and targets. Immigration reform advocates and experts applauded Biden’s first-day plans for prioritizing immigration and quickly undoing the damage done by the previous president.
Biden’s ambitious legislative bill, which will be sent to Congress on Wednesday for review, details an eight-year roadmap to citizenship for current immigrants, including approximately 700,000 Dreamers and 400,000 immigrants living with Temporary Protected Status.
Members of those programs, as well as certain farm workers, would qualify for green cards immediately and be eligible for citizenship after three years. Other undocumented immigrants would be eligible for green cards after five years. In all cases, the immigrants would be subjected to background checks and required to pay taxes.
The plan would also reunite families, boost technology at the border, and increase the diversity visa program from 55,000 visas to 80,000 visas per year. Trump attempted to terminate the diversity visa program, as well as DACA and certain TPS programs.
The proposal would set up multiple processing centers abroad to identify and screen refugees, in addition to allotting $4 billion in aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras over four years to address the root cause of migration.
If passed, Biden’s reforms would be the largest legislative overhaul of the U.S. immigration system since Republican President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s.
However, it may be difficult to get them through Congress. The last immigration overhaul bill passed the Senate in a 68-32 vote in 2013, but the Democratic majority was larger at the time than the 50-50 split Biden will be dealing with. (Vice President Kamala Harris, as president of the Senate, can cast a tie-breaking vote.)
However, it will be an easier lift in the House, where that 2013 bill never got a vote. Democrats control the lower chamber now and are likely to support a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
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