On Thursday, February 18th, the White House announced its immigration bill. According to Priscilla Alvarez and Lauren Fox of CNN, the bill’s main goals are an eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants already in the U.S., and to speed-up citizenship for undocumented immigrants arriving in America as minors.
The bill has been introduced in both chambers of Congress and is titled the US Citizenship Act of 2021. However, in a slim-majority Congress, Senate Democrats do not have the 60 votes themselves required to pass the bill.
The bill includes a 5-year temporary status for those seeking permanent residency, with 3-years until they get citizenship. This 8-year path would shorten the current 13-year wait for citizenship. There is also an option of 6 years of initial admission, with conditional 6-year extensions.
People that are either spouses, partners, or children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents, would be exempt from counting towards annual caps in the new bill. If someone had been previously illegally residing in the United States and departed since, the bill would repeal the bars to reenter the country.
To better manage the backlog of asylum applications, the bill would also provide funding to US Citizenship and Immigration department, as well as eliminating the one-year limit for filing an asylum case. Funding would also go to increasing the number of immigration judges and additional funding to provide counseling services to children and other vulnerable individuals.
Diversity visas, used to encourage immigration from countries that do not have many citizens immigrating to America, would increase from 55,000 invitations per year, to 80,000.
A commission – combining civil right advocates, employers, and labor unions – to improve worker verification is included in the bill. This includes increasing protections for immigrants who report labor violations and increasing penalties for employers knowingly hiring undocumented workers.
The bill would also work beyond the border by increasing action against destabilizing forces such as smugglers and narcotics. A $4 billion investment plan would be created for Central America, which would include establishing legal and safe immigration passageways.