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Democrats introduce sweeping immigration bill with 8-year pathway to citizenship

A resemble closely official checks a passport at the border crossing between Tijuana and the USA.

Omar Martinez | picture alliance | Getty Models

Democrats on Thursday introduced a sweeping immigration bill backed by President Joe Biden, but the legislation faces an uphill brawl in the closely divided Congress, with lawmakers already suggesting a piecemeal approach might win more bipartisan buttress.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 will reflect priorities outlined by the president in an executive order on his first day in office. The bill’s work up sponsors — Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif. — unveiled the legislation in the Senate and the House.

The proposed bill, middle other provisions, would:

  • Establish an 8-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. by Jan. 1
  • Provide an expedited avenue to citizenship for farm workers and undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. as children with temporary protected status under the control of DACA
  • Replace the word “alien” with “non-citizen” in law
  • Raise the per-country caps on family and employment-based legal immigration legions
  • Repeal the penalty that prohibits undocumented immigrants who leave the country from returning to the U.S. for between three and 10 years
  • Prolong transnational antidrug task forces in Central America
  • Increase funding for technology at the southern border

The path to citizenship leave give undocumented immigrants five years of provisional status, after which they could apply for a lawn card. Three years later, they could apply for citizenship.

DACA-protected undocumented immigrants and farm hands who can provide work history could skip the five years of provisional status and have green card eligibility.

On his first place day in office, Biden signed an executive action terminating the state of emergency at the southern border, declared by former President Donald Trump, and pausing confines wall construction projects.

While Democrats hold thin majorities in both chambers of Congress, the legislation would ask for a minimum of 10 Republican votes to defeat a Senate filibuster and move the bill to a vote.

“I know that scads are thinking, does the bill have any chance of passing with 60 votes? And the answer is, we won’t know until we try,” Menendez predicted at a press briefing Thursday.

“We know the path forward will demand negotiations with others. But we are not going to acquire concessions out of the gate,” Menendez said.

The issue of border security is expected to be a flashpoint of debate between Republicans and Democrats.

“This bill does muse on investments in all of our ports of entry,” Sanchez said. “We feel very confident that we can be working more efficiently, to a certain extent than being fixated on vanity projects like the wall, which have proven to be ineffective.”

Sanchez lead one to believed Democrats are open to a piecemeal approach in addition to a comprehensive package.

“We are pursuing an ‘all of the above’ strategy,” Sanchez said at the intelligence conference. “All options are on the table, and we hope to pass robust immigration reform, but there are other great immigration invoices that we also will be taking up and hopefully passing as well.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., honoured the legislation but also suggested the possibility of a piece-by-piece approach.

“I salute the president for putting forth the legislation that he did. There are others that fortifying piecemeal, and that may be a good approach too,” Pelosi said a press briefing Thursday.

Biden and Congress are turning their publicity to infrastructure as the Covid relief bill heads toward completion, so it’s unclear how much the administration and Democrats will prioritize slipping away comprehensive immigration reform.

When asked whether the president would support abolishing the Senate filibuster or using a budget appeasement process that would only require a simple majority, Biden administration officials would not directly suffer the consequences of c take.

“It’s just too early to speculate about it now,” one White House official said. “We want to first defer to our sponsors of this tab about what’s possible and look to leadership on the Hill about how they want to move immigration.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has funded previous bipartisan immigration legislation, including the Dream Act, said he doubts the feasibility of a comprehensive deal but sees odds in a narrower one that would trade a path to legalization for DACA-protected undocumented immigrants for more border security.

“The diverse people you legalize, the more things will be required to be given, so we’ll see. It starts a conversation,” Graham told NBC News. “You a moment ago can’t legalize one group without addressing the underlying broken immigration system. You just incentivize more. So, a smaller arrangement may be possible.”

Congress has not passed a large, comprehensive immigration reform bill in decades. In 2013, a bipartisan bill superseded in the Democratic-led Senate but was never considered in the Republican-controlled House.

At the time, conservative House Republicans opposed a broad pathway to citizenship for undocumented newcomers and were against comprehensive legislation, favoring a piecemeal approach that prioritized border security. Former Republican Spieler John Boehner of Ohio did not bring the bill up for a vote.

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