Proposed Immigration Reform under the Biden Administration.
On President Biden’s first day in office, he gave a clear signal to his commitment to immigration reform by introducing proposed immigration reform. While Flecha Law is excited for the prospect of immigration reform, it is important to note that no substantive reform to immigration law has occurred. President Biden has merely introduced a series of changes to our immigration law that his administration would like to see Congress implement. If Congress decides to act on immigration reform, the following is a summary of some of the changes the Biden Administration would like to enact.
Pathway to Citizenship
The proposed bill permits undocumented persons to apply for temporary legal status. After five years, one can apply for a green card if s/he passes criminal and national security background checks and pays taxes. Persons with DACA or TPS who meet certain requirements would become immediately eligible for a green card. After three years of holding a green card, one can apply for U.S. citizenship if they pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics.
Remove the term “Alien” from our Immigration Laws
Under our current immigration laws, “alien” signifies any person who is not a citizen of the United States. In the Biden Administration’s proposed bill, “Alien” would be replaced with the term “noncitizen.”
Prioritize Family Unity
Family-based immigrant visas have significant backlogs, which would be cleared under the proposed bill. The long wait for family visas would be eliminated. The current limits to visas available per country would be increased. The 3 and 10 year unlawful presence bars, which often separate families, would be eliminated. People who live abroad and have approved family visas could join family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while waiting for green cards to become available. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ families would be eliminated under the proposed bill, as well as providing for permanent partnerships.
Support for Asylum and Humanitarian Visas
The one year filing deadline for asylum would be eliminated, and additional funding would be provided to reduce the years long asylum application backlog. The annual cap on U Visas for Crime Victims would be increased from 10,000 to 30,000, which would likely have a significant effect on the current years long backlog of U Visa applications. Protections for foreign nationals assisting U.S. troops would also be expanded.
Tackling the Root Causes of Migration to the United States
The proposed bill would increase financial assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras conditioned on their ability to reduce corruption, violence and poverty. Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America would be established to register and process people for refugee resettlement and other means for lawful immigration to the United States or another country partnered with the program.The Central American Minors program, established under the Obama Administration, would also be re-instituted. Under this program, children with qualifying family members residing in the U.S. had the opportunity to reunite with family in a safe way.
Again, none of these changes have been implemented. However, the proposed bill gives us an idea of the type of immigration reform we can expect under the Biden Administration.