Plan provides pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants; green card in eight years.
Congressional Democrats and advocates are reported to be drafting a sweeping immigration reform bill offering a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in preparation for the new Biden-Harris administration.
President-elect Joe Biden Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, policy advisers and three Latino Cabinet nominees met with advocates last Thursday to outline the president-elect’s immigration, coronavirus and economic agendas, Politico reported.
Top Latino and immigrant advocacy groups who’ve seen details of the coming package were cited as saying they were stunned by the boldness of Biden’s plan.
Biden’s plan “is the most aggressive agenda that I have seen on immigration reform from day one — not only the legislative package, but also executive orders,” Hector Sanchez Barba, head of Mi Familia Vota, was quoted as saying.
“We were totally floored by the immigration plan and the level of clarity,” said Jess Morales Rocketto, executive director of Care in Action.
Biden’s team told attendees of the meeting the bill would give 11 million undocumented immigrants a pathway for citizenship, with an eight-year wait as a permanent resident, said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, as cited by Politico
Biden also plans an executive order instituting a “four-year extension” of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The eight-year time frame, outlined by Harris during an interview with Univision last week, was a disappointment for Garcia who plans to push for a five-year wait instead, according to Politico.
During the meeting, Biden also told advocates not to hold him to “100 days” to pass immigration legislation because impeachment proceedings in the Senate “could slow things down,” said Garcia.
Democrats, aware of the difficulties, are split on the best way to proceed, Politico said. Some lawmakers say they want Biden to get whatever he can get passed as soon as possible, even if it means adopting a more piecemeal approach.
Others argue a true overhaul of the nation’s immigration system can only happen in one large package forcing Congress to meet the issue head-on.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), backed by more than a dozen labor and immigrant rights groups, said he is planning to introduce legislation allowing undocumented essential workers to apply for permanent resident status.
Under the bill, those workers would be eligible to apply for citizenship in five years.
Soon-to-be Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin acknowledged the dicey road ahead with a tied Senate and slim majority in the House, according to Politico.
“I am realistic. I have been in the middle of this battle for two decades,” said Durbin, adding that he has to take Biden’s immigration goals and “ translate them into a 50-50 Senate and a 50-50 Senate Judiciary committee.”
“I’m not ruling out a larger bill, but I want to take it a step at a time,” said Durbin, who along with Menendez, has started conversations with his Republican colleagues.
“I don’t want to overplay my hand. I want to be mindful that bipartisan support is essential to victory in the Senate,” he was quoted as saying.
Castro’s coming bill establishes a broad definition for essential workers that could cover some five million undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers and Temporary Protected Status recipients, according to Politico.
And it could be passed as a standalone bill, or as part of coronavirus relief or an immigration package, Castro said.
The measure will define essential workers as any worker who has “performed any service or labor” during the pandemic including in sanitation, health care, retail and construction, and any worker deemed essential by state or local entities.
It would also provide a pathway for the family members who’ve had to stand in for any essential worker who died due to Covid-19 and promotes a pathway for relatives to promote family unity.
Biden’s proposal is expected to provide an avenue for some essential undocumented workers but whether it goes as far as Castro’s proposal is uncertain, Politico said.
Democratic lawmakers and advocates said based on conversations with Biden’s team — as well as Biden’s comments — they are confident Biden will take a different approach to immigration than President Barack Obama.
The immigration policy advisers Biden’s added to his team from advocacy groups like America’s Voice and The Immigration Hub are a positive sign, they were quoted as saying.
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Kamala Harris outlines sweeping immigration reform agenda (January 13, 2021)