Congressional Democrats are moving forward with the campaign promise of overhauling America’s problematic and oft-maligned immigration system.
On Thursday, Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-Pa.) introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, a measure that would provide the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. At least 619,000 undocumented Black immigrants could benefit.
Under the proposal, Dreamers (undocumented immigrants brought to America as children) and some farm workers would qualify for expedited citizenship within three years, as would people who have Temporary Protected Status because conditions prevent them from returning to the countries they migrated from. The Trump administration, in comparison, sought to end TPS for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan.
The Democrats’ plan would also offer other undocumented immigrants an eight year path to citizenship, without the fear of deportation, and prioritize keeping families together.
The bill is backed by President Biden, who during the election promised to remake the nation’s immigration system so as to reflect America’s “highest values,” following what he called the suffering under the misguided policies of the Trump administration.
Black lawmakers Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Karen Bass from California, and leader of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Force, Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, are among the dozen Democrats who’ve co-sponsored the bill.
“Over the last four years we all witnessed horrific immigration policies resulting in thousands of children being removed from their parents, families held in cages, and refugees from as far away as Cameroon and countries in Western Africa forced to languish in Mexico because the US consistently violated international asylum laws. It is my hope that my colleagues will join in voting to pass this important piece of legislation – reforming our immigration system,” said Bass said of the measure.
The path to passing it in Congress will be the real test, indeed.
From CBS News:
The bill, based on parameters unveiled by the Biden administration last month, is expected to be championed by the White House as one of President Biden’s domestic policy priorities during his first year in office. However, the sweeping proposal will need to garner unanimous Democratic support and at least 10 Republican votes in the Senate under current Senate rules — a threshold that has previously doomed other immigration reform plans.
Asked whether the White House would be open to considering potential Republican-led amendments to the bill that would increase any type of immigration enforcement, an administration official didn’t rule it out.
“If Republicans want to come forward and work on immigration, I think the president is open to working with anyone who wants to get something done and get a bill to his desk,” the official said during a call with reporters late Wednesday.
So the challenge will be “compromising” with the Republican legislators who largely stayed mum in the face of Trump’s heinous immigration actions during his time in office and benefited from a base riled up by exclusionary rhetoric about building a wall on the border.
In the final days of the Trump presidency (i.e. in January 2021), his administration deported several immigrants from majority-Black countries including Mauritius, Jamaica and Haiti—where a Black man who’d never been to the french-speaking nation was forcefully flown by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE).
Homeland Security has continued carrying out deportations since Biden took office, after a federal judge in Texas rejected the White House’s bid for a 100-day moratorium on deportations. For immigrant families still living in fear, the passage of the U.S. Citizenship Act likely can’t come soon enough.