Just a month into the Joe Biden presidency, democrats formally introduced the new immigration reform bill in Congress, which is a round-up of the immigration priorities that U.S. President Joe Biden promised and laid out on of his first day in office. The bill would create an eight-year path to citizenship for the country’s almost 11 million illegal immigrants and a fast-track citizenship for those who entered the country illegally as children. The bill is yet to be passed in the Senate and has been introduced without republican support. This bill revises the hard-line immigration and border policies introduced by the previous Trump administration.
In an interview with SBS News, Jared Mondschein, a senior research fellow at the U.S. Studies Centre stated that the recent surge of immigrants does not represent a pressing issue such as the COVID-19 but is more of a political one. However, he warned that if the number does increase it is going to be a challenge for the Biden administration. In a statement, addressing the legislation, President Biden said he looked forward to “address the wrongdoings of the past administration and restore justice, humanity, and order to our immigration system.” Leading newspapers also reported experts warning the Biden administration of the long road ahead of them in undoing the past immigration policies.
This immigration reform is welcomed and can also be seen as a good sign and indicates where the priorities of Biden’s administration lie. However, the practicality of the success of this bill remains doubtful with republicans still opposing the bill. Moreover, the bill does not have enforcement strategies as experts have pointed out which is a major downfall. The U.S. immigration system has always been complex and problematic with the number of illegal immigrants and refugees that cross the border from Latin America and Mexico every day. While the bill seeks to address the root causes of immigration, it also raises the question of international border policy changes between the U.S. and other countries. This policy also signals a shift in how the U.S. admits refugees and will continue to do so. The Biden administration must review and re-evaluate the challenges the bill faces to get Republicans to support the bill. It should also be remembered that this should not be just about politics but about the humanitarian issue.
This bill is a promise kept by President Joe Biden regarding reversing former President Trump’s border policies as announced in his campaign. Trump began to build the U.S.- Mexico wall during his presidency to stop immigrants from entering the country. His hard-line border policies also separated children who entered the country illegally with their families. In his election campaign, Biden took up immigration as one of the key policy changes that he would be implementing when he became the president.
The immigration reform bill grants qualifying illegal immigrants a temporary status for five years after which they will be granted a green card if they pass requirements such as background checks and their ability to pay taxes. After three years, they will be eligible to apply for a green card. Immigrants who crossed the borders before January 1, 2021, will be eligible for citizenship. Currently, the bill has a 50-50 vote and needs ten Republican votes to reach the 60-50 threshold in the Senate. The bill also seeks to remove the word alien from the constitution by replacing it with non-citizen.
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