Biden’s About-Face on Immigration Policy

February 3, 2021

Author: Susan Karlovich

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a legislative bill that was proposed by President Biden on his first day in office. Here are some of the salient highlights of this Bill. 

Pathway to Citizenship. The Bill provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals, provided they pass national security and criminal background checks and have paid their taxes. The Dreamers, holders of Temporary Protective Status (TPS) and migrant farmworkers may be eligible for green cards immediately. Within three years of obtaining a green card, applicants can apply to become naturalized citizens. 

Clearing Employment-Based Visa Backlogs. The Bill clears away the backlogs for employment-based visas, reduces lengthy wait times and eliminates the $250,000 per-country visa caps. It will be easier for graduates of U.S. universities with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees to remain in the United States and the Bill eliminates a host of hurdles for employment-based green cards. Dependents of H-1B visa holders will be ensured work authorization and their children will no longer be at risk of “aging out” of the system. 

Emphasis on Technology for Border Control. The Bill authorizes additional funding for the Department of Homeland Security to implement a plan to use advanced scanning technology to enhance the ability to identify narcotics at all points of entry, including ports of entry and rail-border crossings along the U.S. border. 

Addressing Underlying Causes of Migration. The Bill provides $4 billion to fund President Biden’s four-year plan to increase assistance to Central America’s turbulent Northern Triangle, which includes El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, provided they take steps to reduce the corruption, violence and poverty that causes its people to flee. It establishes Processing Centers in Central America to register displaced individuals for refugee resettlement in the United States or other partner countries. 

Immigration Court Reform. The Bill promises to reduce immigration court backlogs, improve technology for the courts and expand training for immigration judges. It will give immigration judges more discretion to grant relief to deserving people. 

Family Unification. The Bill seeks to clear backlogs for family-based cases by eliminating lengthy wait times, increasing the per-country visa caps and eliminating the three-year and ten-year bars to reentry into the United States, which would otherwise keep families apart. It allows immigrants with approved family petitions to join their families in the United States while they wait for their green cards to process. 

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 constitutes immigration reform on a grand scale that is touted to responsibly manage immigration across the Hemisphere, secure our borders and stimulate our economy, while keeping families together and our communities safe. With the slimmest of margins in the Senate, it is anyone’s guess whether President Biden’s ambitious immigration agenda will ever come to pass in anything like its current form.

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