Washington: Congressional Democrats and the White House were slated to unveil on Thursday an immigration overhaul bill that would reshape U.S. immigration laws and allow millions of immigrants living in the country without authorization to obtain legal status, CBS News has reported.
The proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is close to what President Joe Biden outlines on his first day in office. The biggest ticket item is an eight-year path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, estimated to be 11 million.
The sweeping bill also sees illegal immigrants farmworkers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients immediately eligible for green cards.
It would also open up legal pathways to immigration even further, including expanding the controversial green card lottery from 55,000 to 80,000 a year and exempting children and spouses from visa cap numbers.
Separately the bill also includes $4 billion in funding to target what the administration describes as “root causes” for migration from south of the border. Administration officials told reporters that it includes cracking down on bad actors in the region and enhancing the ability to prosecute traffickers — including expanding anti-gang task forces. It would also set up refugee processing centers in Central America.
The bill contains significantly less on border security than previous efforts on bipartisan immigration reform, including funding for technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability of officials to identify contraband.
The bill, expected to be introduced in the House later Thursday, faces decent chances of passage in that chamber but a dim future in the Senate — where it would need 10 Republican votes to pass.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who will unveil the bill on Thursday along with other lawmakers from both chambers, has described it as a “Herculean” task to get through the chamber.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell recently called it a “massive proposal for blanket amnesty that would gut enforcement of American laws while creating huge new incentives for people to rush here illegally at the same time”.
Sen. Lindsey Graham has suggested a more limited bill that focuses on DACA recipients, proposing it with Sen. Dick Durbin, and describing it as a starting point for us to find bipartisan breakthroughs providing relief to the Dreamers and also repairing a broken immigration system.
The White House has indicated it is open to negotiation and to the bill being broken up and passed in parts.