True to their word, President Biden and Vice President Harris are sending an immigration bill called The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress on DAY 1.
In the President's press release about the new bill, more details on his plan to modernize the immigration system are revealed. However, the plans are still vague and will require a significant amount of work, effort and time not only for Congress to pass the bill, but also after (if) it passes, presumably additional time will be required for the new policies to take shape: new applications and forms must be created, instructions, to etc., before it will be available to the non-citizens present in the United States who are eligible. Until this bill manifests into a proper process available to applicants, it's important maintain legal status, apply timely for relief that you are eligible for, and continue to follow all the rules and procedures in place currently in order to remain safely in the United States. Please contact an attorney if you have any concerns about a path to immigration available to you.
Most impressively, President Biden appears to be keeping his promise to the 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States today by creating an earned roadmap to citizenship in his Citizenship Act. According to the press release issued by the Biden-Harris Administration, the bill allows the following actions:
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.
Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers 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 Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017 who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes.
Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws.
For those individuals who are already in immigration court removal proceedings, Biden's Citizenship Act calls for implementation of protections that will improve the immigration courts and protect vulnerable individuals:
The bill restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals.
The bill expands family case management programs, reduces immigration court backlogs, expands training for immigration judges, and improves technology for immigration courts.
Funding is authorized for legal orientation programs and counsel for children, vulnerable individuals, and others when necessary to ensure the fair and efficient resolution of their claims.
The bill also provides funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children, while clarifying sponsor responsibilities for such children.
The bill introduces much needed protections for asylum-seekers, most notably, the bill:
ELIMINATES THE ONE-YEAR DEADLINE FOR FILING FOR ASYLUM CLAIMS
Provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs.
Increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.
This is just the beginning. There will be more to come. Stay informed, be proactive and maintain status in the United States. It's easy to be overwhelmed with excitement about the new developments and wait and rely on their implementation. Doing so may result in falling out of status and facing dire immigration consequences. I urge you to stay positive and hopeful under the counsel of an immigration attorney to ensure your best chances of success.