On Thursday, February 18, 2021, Congressional Democrats introduced a sweeping immigration bill. Unveiled by Representative Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA) and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), this legislation is based on the proposal announced by President Biden on his first day in office, which would be called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.
The bill introduces an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of immigrants currently in the U.S. as of January 1, 2021. These individuals would be able to live and work in the U.S. for five years after passing background checks and paying taxes. They could then apply for a green card that would give them permanent status in the U.S. and another opportunity to gain citizenship after an additional three years. The bill also provides a faster path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children (also known as DREAMers).
Unlike previous immigration reform efforts, this legislation focuses on adding resources to legal migrant processing at ports of entry as well as investing $4 billion in distressed economies over four years with the purpose of preventing individuals from fleeing to the U.S. for safety, security, and economic crises. This bill would also eliminate restrictions on family-based immigration, which would support the unification of families and children.
A near overhaul of the present U.S. immigration system, President Joe Biden remains open to negotiating the bill. The challenge to passing the bill arises in the Senate. With support from 10 Republic senators needed to pass the legislation and the Senate split 50-50, Democrats would need 60 votes in the Senate to avoid a filibuster. There have been talks about pursuing smaller, more targeted bills; however, it is unclear how this piecemeal approach would operate with already present objections to the idea, especially from Senator Menendez.