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4 Things To Know About President Biden's Immigration Plan

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in New Castle, Del.
Evan Vucci
Associated Press
President-elect Joe Biden speaks at the Major Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III National Guard/Reserve Center, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in New Castle, Del.

President Biden is expected to make sweeping immigration reforms as he enters office, reversing former President Donald Trump's actions on immigration that he has called an "unrelenting assault."

President Biden will send an ambitious new immigration bill to Congress on his first day in office. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a sharp reversal of the strict immigration policies put in place by former President Donald Trump.

The legislation includes a faster path to citizenship, protections for Dreamers and vulnerable populations like unaccompanied minors and reforms to immigration courts that have faced ballooning case backlogs.

Here's what to expect from the Biden administration's Day One immigration bill:

1. An 8-Year Path To Citizenship

For an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status, the bill would offer one of the fastest pathways to citizenship in recent years.

Under the legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.

For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.

Still, the legislation fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.

2. A Focus On Keeping Families Together

The Trump administration’s family separation policy has received much attention over the last four years. It's led to hundreds of parents being separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border, leaving many migrant children scattered across the country.

President Biden’s immigration bill would call for reforms to the family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating long wait times and increasing per-country visa caps.

The bill would also eliminate provisions like the “3 and 10-year bars,” which prohibits applicants from returning to the United States if they depart after being in the country illegally. It also would allow immigrants with approved family sponsorships to temporarily join their families in the U.S. while they wait for green cards.

3. Improvements To Immigration Courts

The backlogged immigration court system has been the result of ramped-up immigration policies, rising caseloads and a lack of immigration judges. It’s left thousands of immigrants in legal limbo as many wait years to get a court date.

Now, the Biden administration plans to address these issues by creating management programs, reducing immigration court backlogs, expanding training for immigration judges and improving technology for immigration courts.

Funding will go towards children and vulnerable populations who seek legal advice and counseling, as well as school districts that serve unaccompanied children.

4. Strengthening The Border With Technology

The administration will devote an unspecified amount of funding towards improved immigration enforcement.

The funds would go towards expedited screening for narcotics, high-throughput scanning technologies, improved infrastructure at ports of entry, border security between ports of entry and alternatives to a border wall.

Some border advocates are waiting to see what the Biden administration has planned for border wall construction, according to Texas Public Radio.

While Biden promised there would be “not another foot” of wall and that he would “withdraw lawsuits” against border landowners, he has not yet publicly detailed his exact plan to stop the hodge-podge of wall projects he will inherit from the Trump administration.

Biden’s transition team has prepared for him to “issue a proclamation terminating the border wall emergency,”according to Politico.

The Associated Press and Texas Public Radio have contributed to this report.