On the morning of his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden announced his proposed legislation as part of his administration's effort for immigration reform. The legislation, titled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, is a comprehensive immigration legislation that improves paths to citizenship, family-based immigration, and employment-based immigration. Specifically, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 targets three areas: (1) Provide pathways to citizenship and strengthen labor protections; (2) Prioritize smart border controls; and (3) Address root causes of migration.
First, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 will provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented individuals, along with significantly reducing the amount of time required to become a citizen for such individuals. This will allow applicants such as DACA recipients, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers to immediately apply for green cards and after three years, apply to become U.S. citizens so long as the applicant satisfies background checks and demonstrates knowledge of English and U.S. civics. The bill also introduces a system to clear family- and employment-based immigration backlogs and increasing per-country visa numbers. The bill also provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and notably, children will be prevented from "aging out" of the immigration system. Furthermore, it will eliminate the commonly-referred "3- and 10-year bars," which bars individuals from re-entering the United States who have accrued a certain amount of unlawful presence. Lastly, the bill strives to improve the employment verification process and protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation, through a new process whereby labor agencies may interview these workers.
Second, President-elect Biden will take a different approach from the Trump administration on border wall enforcement by instead investing in technology at the border to "expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband" found at the port of entry. The bill also provides funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, alongside the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to advance guidelines for standards of care for individuals and families in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.
Finally, the legislation will reduce immigration court backlogs, as well as provide expanded training for immigration judges and improve existing technology in the immigration court system. Additionally, the bill eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs, and increases protection and visa numbers for U visas, T visas, and VAWA applicants.
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