Biden Unveils Radical Immigration Overhaul

Last week, President Biden unveiled the US Citizenship Act; his major immigration reform bill that would radically alter the American immigration system. The primary goals of this legislation are to “provide an earned path to citizenship, to address the root causes of migration and responsibly manage the southern border, and to reform the immigrant visa system.”

The Big Picture

After contentious battles raged over immigration policy during the Trump administration, then-candidate Biden made immigration reform a central pillar of his campaign. This proposed bill is the fruits of those promises. Having been unveiled by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), both parties and outside organizations are already gearing up for what is bound to be a fierce debate over the final contents of the bill.

The Details

Title I

  • Creates a pathway to citizenship for noncitizens already residing in the United States
  • Establishes a new “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” status to bridge the gap between noncitizens and Lawful Protected Residents
  • Allows for judicial review of immigration application denials

Title II

  • Attempts to address the “root causes of migration”
  • Directs the Secretary of State to establish broad reaching programs in Latin America to combat poverty, violence, and corruption
  • Authorizes $1 billion to carry out this strategy
  • Makes it a federal crime to surveil, track, or otherwise monitor the activities of any law enforcement agency or officer with the intent to violate federal law

Title III

  • Dramatically alters the immigrant visa process
  • Expands the inclusion of family members in administering visas
  • Includes a new prohibition against discrimination based on religion in visa proceedings

Title IV

  • Substantially reshapes immigration courts
  • Provides for government-funded legal counsel for “vulnerable populations”
  • Eliminates timelines on visa applications

Title V

  • Streamlines and expands employment authorization for immigrants
  • Establishes a federal commission to report on areas where the government can expand employment authorization eligibility
  • Includes the POWER Act which would grant immigrant workers more rights regarding employment violations

Why it Matters

President Biden’s plan to make good on his campaign promises would be a frameshift in federal immigration policy. The largest viable legislative package on immigration in recent memory, there is very little about our immigration system that the US Citizenship Act wouldn’t touch.

Opponents warn that the US Citizenship Act is a massive overcorrection to the changes made by the Trump administration. The Heritage Foundation warns that the bill “seeks to reward illegal aliens at the expense of American citizens,” by erasing “the distinction between legal and illegal immigration.” Other groups have echoed this sentiment and lament the fact that the bill includes practically nothing for border security.

Until now, Congress has been curiously quiet about the US Citizenship Act, begging the question whether the Democrat controlled legislature will accept the bill as is or make significant revisions. The fact that Senate Democrats will need to garner 10 Republican votes to overcome the filibuster adds additional complexity to this question. In order to overcome potential gridlock, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sanchez, has signaled a willingness to take a “piecemeal approach.” Even piecemeal, if the US Citizenship Act is to clear the Senate, there is a strong likelihood that Democrats will be forced to make concessions.

Regardless of how Congressional Democrats decide to proceed, it is clear that they will use this opportunity to radically reform immigration and asylum.

MORE FROM FREEDOMWORKS: Take action to oppose H.R. 1, the “For the Politicians” Act, HERE!