Democrats’ reform bill to offer citizenship to 11 mn | Daily News

Democrats’ reform bill to offer citizenship to 11 mn

A migrant family using all means after crossing the Rio Bravo river on the US-Mexican border in their quest for asylum in El Paso, Texas on February 10, 2021.
A migrant family using all means after crossing the Rio Bravo river on the US-Mexican border in their quest for asylum in El Paso, Texas on February 10, 2021.

US: Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday for President Joe Biden's plan to create a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, saying there is no justification for denying them a permanent home in the United States.

Top Democrats said the legislation, blocked for more than a decade by Republicans, is "long overdue," noting that most of those it will address have lived in the country for many years, with homes, businesses and US-born children and grandchildren.

It will offer an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million.

Some, including people brought to the country as children -- so-called Dreamers -- and farmworkers, will get an immediate path to permanent residence or a "green card," allowing them to work legally.

Others addressed include tens of thousands of people who remained in the United States for years under temporary protected status (TPS) due to violent upheavals or natural disasters in their home countries.

And, underscoring the Biden administration's reversal from former president Donald Trump's strident anti-immigration policies, the legislation also proposes to stop branding undocumented immigrants as "aliens" in US law.

Instead, they will be called the less pejorative "non-citizens."

"It's time to bring all 11 million undocumented out of the shadows," said Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

"We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform that leaves no one behind, not our dreamers and TPS holders, not our farmworkers and meatpackers, not our essential workers, not our parents, friends, and neighbours," he said.

The legislation followed through on Biden's announcement on January 20, his first day in office, to overhaul US policies toward undocumented immigrants as well as people arriving at the US-Mexico border seeking to enter for work or as refugees.

A major focus is the Dreamers, people who were brought to the United States illegally as children and grew up there.

Biden was vice president in the administration of president Barack Obama who sought to open a way to citizenship for the Dreamers, only to be forced to compromise for short-term measures with Republicans. Obama's successor Donald Trump attempted to reverse the Dreamers programme as part of more than 400 Executive Orders he put through to curb immigration and punish the undocumented.

Besides offering a pathway to citizenship for millions already living in the United States, Biden wants to take a more forgiving policy at the border, ending Trump's "zero tolerance" approach and reuniting families separated by it. - AFP