Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill Promotes Sweeping Changes for Migrants

Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill Promotes Sweeping Changes for Migrants

The United States welcomed 2021 not only with a newly inaugurated president but also a landmark immigration bill. Called the US Citizenship Act of 2021, it will introduce sweeping changes in many of the immigration processes in the country.

These new rules can have significant effects on states with a growing diverse population, like Utah. Based on the estimates of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute of the University of Utah, the whites will still account for the highest number between 2015 and 2065.

However, the average annual rate of change among the white population will be the lowest within the same period at 0.9%. Meanwhile, the number of residents with at least two or more races will increase by an astonishing 3.3% annually.

Those who like to migrate to the United States or are already here but want to become citizens can definitely approach an immigration attorney to learn more about this new bill. But for the sake of information, here are the basics:

  1. It Will Strike Down the Use of the Word “Alien”

There’s actually a lot of contention about the word “alien” to describe a foreigner or even an immigrant. The same goes for “illegal aliens,” which they attribute to undocumented non-Americans living in the country.

To be fair, “alien” comes from the Latin word alienus, which translates to stranger or belonging somewhere else. Writing for Cato Institute, Alex Nowrasteh also argued that “illegal alien” is one of the correct legal words for “illegal immigrant.”

However, over the years, many found the terms to be disparaging, offensive, or demeaning. In fact, the country’s Citizenship and Immigration Services director Tracy Renaud already sent a memo reminding the staff to use a more inclusive term and just avoid referring migrants, regardless of status, as “aliens.”

  1. It Will Create an Earned Path to Citizenship for Migrants

The country has over 10 million undocumented migrants. Many have been in the country, contributing to the economy. However, due to a wide variety of circumstances, they cannot become citizens or even permanent residents.

In 2013, then-president Barack Obama recommended creating a path that will allow them to obtain citizenship in a fair and justifiable manner. This bill may be the fruition of that.

What does the act propose?

  • It will now permit undocumented individuals to obtain a temporary legal status. But they will undergo a rigorous background check and pay their taxes. If they pass these, they can obtain a green card within five years. Exceptions apply to some groups like immigrant farmworkers. If they want to apply for citizenship, they can do so after three years and after passing another round of background checks.
  • The pathway above applies to those qualified who are in the United States as of January 1, 2021. But the Department of Homeland Security may waive the physical presence requirement if the person had been in the United States deported on January 20, 2017, or after. They must have been in the country by three years before their removal from their family.
  • The bill seeks to keep families intact by reforming the family-based immigration system. It will provide processes or methods to reduce and prevent backlogs. It will also recapture unused visas, shorten waiting times, and increase visa caps per country.
  • The bill encourages diversity by including a No Ban Act. This means that no one will be denied citizenship on the sole basis of discriminatory factors, such as religion and race. Moreover, it will reduce the authority of the president to issue bans that promotes discrimination.
  1. The Bill Will Increase the Number of Working Immigrants in the Country

The previous administration temporarily suspended many working visas starting last year for immigrants and non-immigrants who may present a risk to the country’s labor market while it’s still dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

Biden and his team wanted to change that—and avoid the same circumstance later—through the proposed bill. Instead, it hopes to increase the number of employment-based migrants by raising the cap from 140,000 to 170,000.

It also aims to eliminate or improve visa backlogs and recapture unused visas. This way, they can help prevent children from aging out during this process. This happens when the individual or the parent applies as a legal resident as a child.

However, because the application takes too long, the child eventually turns 18. Processing them as a dependent becomes more complicated.

Further, foreigners who are holders of student visas may already apply may stay in the country permanently if they are taking up PhD courses in the STEM field. There’s no limit on the number of applicants as of this time.

While this is still a bill, its effects are huge if it passes. As early as now, potential migrants and citizens should talk with an immigration specialist for guidance.

David Lockhart