Congressional Democrats, spurred on by the Biden administration, introduced a bill on Thursday that seeks to grant more than 11 million illegal immigrants an eight-year pathway to citizenship.
The “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021,” introduced by Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Democratic Rep. Linda Sánchez of California, will not only give people who illegally crossed the border into the U.S. before January 1, 2021, the opportunity for a five-year temporary status and then three-year citizenship waiting period. The bill, if passed, would also remove bans on people who previously illegally lived in the U.S. from re-entering, funnel billions of dollars into Central America for refugee programs, provide easier access for certain workers to immigrate to the United States, and replace the term “alien” with “noncitizen” in U.S. immigration laws.
“It makes a difference when you have leadership that is willing to put real political capital on the table for this cause. They know this is about more than undoing the damage of the last President or fixing a broken system — it’s about building a better one, keeping families together, respecting human rights, and addressing the root causes of migration,” said Menendez.
The bill is largely opposed by Republicans in both congressional chambers but will most likely face a battle in the Senate, where Democrats seem to lack the 10 Republican votes they need to pass the legislation without the filibuster stopping them.
While Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is confident that lawmakers should break up the immigration bill into a piecemeal approach, prioritizing farmworkers, people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients for green cards, other Democrats have made it known they are not willing to give up much ground to pass the legislation.
“Time and time again, we have compromised too much and capitulated too quickly to fringe voices,” Menendez said.
Others have floated using the reconciliation process, a budget tool, to pass the bill with a simple majority, most likely a tie-breaker vote using Vice President Kamala Harris. This is also the plan to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending bill.
Shortly after his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed six executive orders related to immigration and the border, most of them undoing former-President Donald Trump’s directives. Biden’s orders reinstate DACA, allow illegal immigrants to be added to U.S. Census totals, and immediately ceased construction on the southern border wall.