Democrats unveiled President Biden’s immigration reform legislation in Congress Thursday — paving a “pathway to citizenship” for the over 11 million illegal immigrants currently in America if passed.
Speaking at a virtual press conference, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) argued that Democrats needed to go beyond simply undoing the immigration efforts of the Trump administration.
“Undoing [former President Donald] Trump’s damage and passing minor reforms is not enough. Our current system is riddled with inefficiencies and needless cruelties,” Menendez said.
“Under the status quo, we still prevent family members from reuniting legally in the United States because of lengthy backlogs and delays. We still send graduates educated in our great universities back to their home countries instead of allowing them to drive innovation here in America,” the New Jersey Democrat continued.
“And we still make it too hard for companies to hire the workers they need to innovate and force American workers to compete with exploited, undocumented labor.”
“[The plan] preserves our values, that strengthens our economy and provides fair protections for immigrants and communities. Most importantly, it does right by all of those who are proud to call this country their home,” Sánchez continued, nodding to the pathway to citizenship.
Menendez and Sánchez have led the effort to push the legislation through both chambers of Congress since receiving it from the White House.
The plan has the full backing of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who announced shortly after the bill was introduced that he would co-sponsor the legislation.
“Comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship has long been a priority of mine, and I believe it is one of the most important things this Congress can do. Throughout this pandemic, immigrants have continued to display their courage by serving on the frontlines as our health care workers, farm workers, and transportation workers, among many other essential duties,” the Senate’s highest-ranking member said in a statement.
“It’s time for our friends and neighbors who have fought to make sure America succeeds to live a life free of fear and uncertainty in the country they call home.”
The legislation itself mirrors some of the executive actions the 46th commander-in-chief signed in his first weeks in office.
Executive orders are legally binding, and as a result, are published in the Federal Register. Executive actions, by contrast, are more often symbolic efforts to enact change.
Biden signed a record number of both during that time period, some of which included edicts on immigration.
One of his actions called on Congress to grant permanent status to “Dreamers” as part of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump challenged in court.
His legislative proposal, as a result, includes an earned pathway to citizenship for over half a million Dreamers.
It also provides a five-year path to legal status, or a green card, for individuals who pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other requirements.
Those who complete that five-year process then would begin a three-year path to citizenship.
The plan does appear to take some action to dissuade migrants from coming to the US amid record numbers at the southern border, implementing a rule that would exclude migrants who arrived after Jan. 1 of this year.
It also invests in technology and infrastructure on the border to handle the migrant surge.
The Biden administration is facing fresh spikes of over 100 percent in illegal border crossings from this time last year and has opened another tent city to detain illegal immigrants in Texas, US Customs and Border Protection announced.
The Border Patrol revealed in a report released last week that the number of migrants apprehended at the border in the month of January reached nearly 78,000, up from 36,679 in January 2020.
Single adult Mexican citizens accounted for more than 37,000 CBP encounters, a 119 percent increase from this time last year, according to the agency.
Amid the surge, a new “soft-sided facility” was established last week by the agency in Donna, Texas, to hold individuals originally staying at the Centralized Processing Center in McAllen, Texas.