Biden offers legal status to 500K immigrants

By Lalit K Jha

PTI, Jun 19, 2024, 8:06 AM IST

Joe Biden (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Washington: President Joe Biden has offered to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants married to US citizens and living in the United States for at least 10 years, a move the White House estimates is likely to benefit more than 5,00,000 people.

In his address to the nation from the East Room of the White House on Tuesday, Biden also announced a plan to ease the process for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries (and potentially other Dreamers) to access high-skilled employment visas.

This will allow employers to keep their critical employees while providing DACA recipients an opportunity to continue to invest in their communities.

“It’s the right thing to do. I want those who’ve been educated at US colleges and universities to put their skills and knowledge to work here in America. I want to keep building the strongest economy in the world with the best workforce in the world. We’ve already created 15 million new jobs, a record,” Biden said.

Family, he said, is about the beginning, middle, and the end, about keeping married couples together where one spouse is a US citizen and the other is undocumented, and they’ve been living in the United States for at least 10 years.

“These couples have been raising families, sending their kids to church and school, paying taxes, contributing to our country for 10 years or more,” he added.

Biden further said, “Matter of fact, the average time they’ve spent here is 23 years, people who are affected today, but living in the United States all this time with fear and uncertainty. We can fix that. And that’s what I’m going to do today, fix it. It doesn’t require any fundamental change in our immigration law.”

Major national immigrant and Latino advocacy groups, including UnidosUS and The Immigration Hub, Democratic leaders, and others praised President Biden for working to keep families together after his predecessor Donald Trump “ripped them apart”.

“Through his actions, President Biden is helping half a million non-citizen spouses and step-children of Americans to remain with their families, including many from Asia and the Pacific Islands who have lived here for years.

“Easing visa processes for Dreamers will cut red tape and allow young people to secure a job of their choice and contribute to our communities and economy,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu.

UnidosUS president and CEO Janet Murguía said the announcement by Biden is a godsend for 5,00,000 American families and will provide a considerable boost to the US economy and community stability across the country.

“Today’s announcement will transform the lives of thousands of immigrants and families across the US who’ve lived in fear and uncertainty for far too long,” said Jorge Loweree, managing director of American Immigration Council.

“While much work remains to (be done to) address the needs of the thousands of other mixed-status families across the US, today’s announcement is historic, and one that benefits immigrant families, our communities, and our economy alike,” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris said while these actions are a significant step forward, there is more work to be done to fix the broken immigration system.

“That includes the need for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers. President Biden and I continue to call on the United States Congress to join us in acting by passing permanent protections for Dreamers,” she said.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said the Department of Homeland Security is taking action to keep American families together and end the fear and uncertainty these families face when one spouse is a US citizen and the other is undocumented, he said.

“Our department will implement a process that will allow those qualified undocumented spouses who are married to a United States citizen and have lived in the United States for at least 10 years to pursue a path to become lawful permanent residents without first having to leave our country for an indefinite period of time.

“This process will achieve family unity, one of our immigration system’s fundamental goals. It will also boost our economy, advance our labour interests, strengthen our foreign relations with key partners in the region, further our public safety interests, and more,” he said.

“Further, we will work with our partners at the State Department in implementing changes to the inadmissibility waiver process that will enable certain noncitizens who were educated in the United States, including DACA recipients, to access high-skilled labour visas for which they are qualified,” Mayorkas said.

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