Biden Administration proposes sweeping immigration reform bill

Posted at 12:30 AM, Jan 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-22 09:25:46-05

IDAHO — The Biden Administration is taking quick action on immigration reform, giving millions of undocumented people in the country hope for a possible pathway to citizenship.

Maria Andrade, an immigration attorney and Immigrant Justice Idaho's Executive Director, says the Biden administration has already sent a proposed immigration reform bill to Congress.

The proposal includes an eight-year pathway to citizenship.

"It opens the doors for individuals to come forward, make an application, to have a temporary, sort of probationary period for about five years, and presumably during that time, the individual would have to maintain their eligibility qualifications which we understand would be paying your taxes, not having a criminal record, these types of things," Andrade said. "After a probationary period year, they would be able to apply for citizenship after three years."

Andrade said applicants would have to document and show proof they lived in the United States by January 1, 2021. The bill could also provide relief for some people waiting years for visas to become available.

"The second bucket of reforms has to do with reducing that backlog for family-based immigration, reducing that backlog for employment-based immigration," Andrade said.

Betsaida Chavez-Garcia, a staff attorney at Immigrant Justice Idaho, said the proposed plan would allow people with Temporary Protection Status (TPS), immigrant farmworkers, and Dreamers to be eligible for a permanent resident card.

"Those folks who meet specific requirements are going to be eligible for green cards immediately. Myself as a DACA recipient, to see this bill introduced right after the new administration, it's very exciting. For me, at least, it allows me for hope for a path to citizenship," Chavez-Garcia said.

Andrade explains they are still waiting for details on whether undocumented individuals who work in the dairy industry, an essential workforce in the Gem State, could be considered under the bill.

"Dairy individuals have often been written out of the definition of agriculture in immigration legislation, which for our state, it's really been a problem for the dairy industry who rely on migrant workers," she said.

Andrade believes there will be some opposition to the proposed legislation but applauds some of the language in the proposed bill. She says it would replace the word "alien" with "noncitizen."

"To me, it's big. Having to say the word 'alien' is dehumanizing," Andrade said.

On Wednesday, Acting Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary David Pekoske signed a moratorium where, beginning January 22, DHS will halt deportations for 'certain noncitizens' for 100 days.

According to the press release it states:

"To ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security, and public safety. The pause will allow DHS to ensure that its resources are dedicated to responding to the most pressing challenges that the United States faces, including immediate operational challenges at the southwest border in the midst of the most serious global public health crisis in a century."

Andrade encourages individuals seeking immigration services to do their research. If you need to consult with an attorney, you're encouraged to find one that's part of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).