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Biden Plan Could Reshape the U.S. Legal Immigration System

Jan 27, 2021

President Joe Biden sent a comprehensive immigration agenda to Congress soon after taking office, pledging to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system.” Doug Rand, Boundless co-founder and immigration policy expert, discusses what’s in the new plan and how it could transform the U.S. legal immigration system. He also takes a look Biden’s executive orders preserving the DACA program and ending the travel ban on predominantly Muslim countries. Here are some of the highlights from the video:

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  • The bill provides a path to citizenship for those who are currently undocumented, namely Dreamers, those under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and certain farm workers. They’d be eligible for a green card immediately and then be eligible for citizenship three years later.
  • The plan would change the way our legal immigration system works. For example, various methods to clear out the lengthy green card and citizenship backlogs and the far too long wait. Part of this would be to exempt PhD graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields from U.S. universities from green card caps, so that they would more easily be able to become permanent residents and ultimately U.S. citizens.
  • There are a number of provisions to make sure that the spouses and children of H-1B workers would be able to have work permits of their own, so they can make their own economic contributions to the United States.
  • The agenda also proposes important changes to how our family-based immigration system works, chiefly by making sure that the spouses and children of permanent residents aren’t subject to very long wait times and will be eligible for green cards immediately so that families wouldn’t be separated in different countries while waiting to obtain their green cards.
  • The bill includes a number of provisions related to the border. This isn’t about increasing the number of border patrol agents or the number of ICE agents — that is not something you will find in the Biden plan. What you will find is a number of provisions to crack down on smugglers and narcotics dealers by increasing scrutiny on the flow of commerce and ports of entry and increasing penalties on those who would try to bring drugs and other contraband into the United States.
  • Another piece is making it less necessary for people fleeing violence and other humanitarian crises from having to make the dangerous trek through Mexico to the southern border in the first place, and that’s by doing things like addressing the root causes of migration with billions of dollars in foreign aid to central American countries facing gang violence and other issues and also by making it possible for people in central America to apply for refugee status without leaving.
  • How likely is this to pass? Most of the traditional ways of passing immigration reform in Congress still require not only a majority in the House of Representatives, but a super majority in the U.S. Senate. Getting sixty votes in the Senate is challenging.
  • When Biden took office on Jan. 20, he spent that first afternoon issuing a flurry of executive orders, many of them dealing with immigration. One of the most important was an executive order strengthening and fortifying DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
  • He also issued an executive order ending once and hopefully for all what are known as the Muslim ban and the Africa ban. These were two actions taken by Donald Trump to dramatically constrain the number of people who are able to come here from Muslim majority countries. Biden said these need to be revoked immediately. What that means now is that families that have been separated for many years can hopefully finally be reunited.

Learn more about Biden’s immigration agenda here.

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