WASHINGTON—President Joe Biden is poised to send a sweeping immigration reform bill to Congress Thursday that would lay out a path for nearly 11 million undocumented people to obtain citizenship within eight years.
Immigration has been one of the toughest issues for Congress to tackle, and the legislation’s fate is unclear in a House in which Democrats wield narrower control than in the past and a 50-50 Senate where Vice President Kamala Harris can break a tie vote for Democrats.
But Biden has pledged to act swiftly on immigration, and his proposed legislation is accompanied by executive actions including halting construction on the border wall, ending the Trump administration ban on U.S. entry for people from Muslim-majority nations and pausing some deportations.
The Biden administration released a summary of its bill, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which would also allow applicants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival to apply for permanent residency.
DACA is an Obama administration initiative for individuals brought into the country illegally as children, and there are more than 700,000 people enrolled.
The proposal is a stark difference from the Trump administration, which spent four years assaulting any form of immigration in the U.S., from trying to eliminate the DACA program to separating families at the border. The last time the U.S. passed sweeping immigration reform was 1986.
“Today, President Biden turned the page on a dark chapter in American history,” House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement. “The time to fix our broken immigration system is long overdue, and I look forward to working with President Biden and his Administration towards securing much needed reforms.”
If passed by Congress, the bill would allow undocumented individuals such as DACA recipients, Temporary Protective Status holders and “immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements” to apply for temporary legal status. After five years, those individuals could apply for green cards if they pass background checks and show they pay taxes.
After three more years, those green card holders could apply to become citizens if they again pass background checks and pass the citizenship test.
While the bill would likely pass the House, it’s unclear if Democrats have enough votes in the Senate. Read more