President Biden’s Proposed Immigration Bill to Congress
President Biden is sending to Congress The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, legislation intended to modernize the U.S. immigration system. It prioritizes keeping families together, growing the economy, and managing the U.S. border. The bill creates an earned path to citizenship for undocumented individuals and strengthens labor protections by prohibiting discrimination based on religion, race, and gender.
The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. Individuals who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.
The bill reforms the family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times, and increasing per-country visa caps. It also eliminates the so-called “3 and 10-year bars,” and other provisions that keep families apart. The bill further supports families by more explicitly including permanent partnerships and eliminating discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families. It also provides protections for orphans, widows, children, and certain veterans. Lastly, the bill allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available. Diversity Visas will be expanded to 80,000 from 55,000.
There are several other important proposed changes under the new legislation as follows:
1. The bill makes it easier for graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees to stay in the United States;
2. Improves access to green cards for workers in lower-wage sectors and eliminates other unnecessary hurdles for employment-based green cards.
3. The bill provides dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and children are prevented from “aging out” of the system.
4. Creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development and gives DHS the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
5. Requires that DHS and the Department of Labor establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to protect workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation in order to allow labor agencies to interview these workers. It also protects migrant and seasonal workers, and increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws;
6. Expands family case management, expands training for immigration judges, and invests in better technology. A series of Committees will be formed to explore how technology and better infrastructure will help secure the U.S. border, as well as invest in tools to understand the circumstances that bring migrants from other countries to the U.S. seeking asylum. It will eliminate the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs. The bill will also provide funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children, while clarifying sponsor responsibilities for such children.
The legislation is quite comprehensive and subject to change. Garganigo, Goldsmith & Weiss will continue to monitor the status of the proposed legislation and keep our valued clients informed as the bill progresses through Congress over the coming weeks and months.