Biden Sends U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress

President Joe Biden Spends Inauguration Day Paving the Way for a Better Tomorrow

President Joe Biden exemplified his commitment to modernizing the American immigration system on his first day in office by sending the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress. The bill will establish new protocols for managing and securing the nation’s borders, preserving the safety of families and communities, and improve the supervision of migration.

Who Will Benefit from the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

The United States as a nation will benefit from improved immigration policies that restore American values and echo the sentiments that Emma Lazarus expressed when she wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” The bill provides positive changes to the following groups:

Asylum Seekers, U Visa Holders, T Visa Holders, and VAWA Applicants

Vulnerable populations are offered new protections through the bill. The U.S. Citizenship Act will:

  • Eliminate the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims
  • Expand protection for those assisting American troops
  • Fund efforts to reduce asylum application backlogs
  • Raise the cap on U visas to 30,000 (up from 10,000)

Dreamers, Immigrant Farmworkers, TPS Holders

The bill protects noncitizens who have resided here for years and built their lives in the United States. Dreamers, immigrant farmworkers, and TPS holders become eligible for permanent residence immediately under the bill. What’s more, those with permanent residence can apply for citizenship after three years, so long as they pass a background check and can show an understanding of U.S. civics and the American language.

Employment-Based Immigration

Immigrants with specialty degrees and occupations are also acknowledged in the bill. To help employment-based immigrants, the Act will:

  • Address visa backlogs
  • Allow the DHS to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic position of individual applicants
  • Eliminate per-country visa caps
  • Facilitate the process for foreign nationals studying STEM at U.S. universities to stay in the country after graduation
  • Give dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization
  • Incentivize higher wages for non-immigrant high-skilled visas
  • Make permanent residence more accessible to low-wage workers
  • Prevent children of H-1B visa holders from aging out of the visa
  • Recapture unused visas
  • Reduce the wait time

Overall, the process will be more efficient.

Family-Based Immigration and Reunification Efforts

Here, too, there will be a dedicated focus on clearing backlogs, recapturing visas that went unused, and eliminating the lengthy wait times for receiving a visa. In addition, it will:

  • Allow those with approved family-sponsorship petitions to temporarily stay with family within the United States while they wait for a green card to become available
  • Create a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to speed up the process of uniting families who have approved family sponsorship petitions
  • Eliminate 3 and 10-year bars, where noncitizens were refused reentry after accumulating more than 6 months of unlawful presence in the United States
  • Increase per-country visa caps
  • Protect children, orphans, widows, and Filipino veterans who fought alongside the U.S. in WWII
  • Re-institute the Central American Minors program to help U.S. relatives reunite with their children
  • Remove additional protocol that separates families
  • Work to eliminate discrimination of LGBTQ+ families

Undocumented Individuals

Undocumented individuals are able to apply for temporary legal status under the new bill. If they pass the required background checks and pay their taxes, they will be able to apply for their permanent residence after five years.

What This Bill Will Try to Accomplish

President Biden’s bill is designed to improve our immigration system in a way that benefits all Americans and allows the country to flourish in cultural diversity. Beyond setting goals for how immigration procedures will be handled once an individual is here, the bill also defines plans to further study the causes of migration and offer assistance where able.

Diversity

President Biden and Vice President Harris are already making great strides in promoting diversity in the country, with Kamala Harris being the first female, first black, and first Asian-American vice president. This act will lay the groundwork to continue welcoming and protecting people of all backgrounds who wish to succeed to the United States by:

  • Including the NO BAN Act, prohibiting religion-based discrimination
  • Limiting the authority of the president to issue future bans based on religion
  • Increasing Diversity Visas to 80,000 (up from 55,000)

Funding for Immigrant Integration and Citizenship

The U.S. Citizenship Act provides funding to organizations running programs that promote integration and inclusion, teach English, and help individuals who are looking to become citizens.

Labor Protections for Immigrants

The new bill acknowledges the important role that immigrant workers play in our economy and is outlining specific ways to ensure these individuals are protected. It will:

  • Grant greater access to U visa relief to workers who have suffered labor violations
  • Increase penalties for employers who violate labor laws
  • Instruct the DHS and Department of Labor to establish a commission that involves labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to provide input on how best to update the employment verification process
  • Protect migrant workers
  • Protect seasonal workers
  • Protect victims of workplace retaliation from deportation
  • Protect workers from exploitation

Borders

Biden plans to supplement current border resources with additional technology and infrastructure. The legislation:

  • Authorizes DHS Secretary to draft a strategy to secure the southern border that focuses on flexible solutions
  • Authorizes funding for technologies that expedite screenings and improve the ability to identify contraband at land, air, and sea entry ports
  • Creates a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee
  • Funds development of guidelines for standards of care for those in CBP custody
  • Funds plans to improve the infrastructure at entry ports to better process asylum seekers
  • Funds training to promote safety and professionalism amongst officers
  • Improve and expand anti-gang task force
  • Instructs the Government Accountability Office to evaluate the impact of the DHS’s authority to waive environmental, state, and federal laws to build near U.S. borders
  • Issues department-wide policies regarding the use of force by officers

Understand the Cause of Migration

The President will have a focus on understanding and addressing the root cause of migration. In his four-year interagency plan, he will:

  • Increase assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras
  • Create avenues for people to seek protection
  • Establish multiple Designated Processing Centers throughout Central America to register and process displaced individuals for refugee resettlement in the United States or other partner countries

Immigration Courts

The immigration courts also earned a mention in the bill. Biden plans to:

  • Expand family case management programs
  • Expand training for immigration judges
  • Fund legal orientation programs and counsel for children and other vulnerable individuals
  • Improve technological resources available in the court
  • Provide judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to individuals
  • Reduce court backlogs

While these proposed changes are exciting, the bill has not been passed. We will post again once the bill is decided.

Help Understanding What this Act Means for You

For more information about the U.S. Citizenship Act and how it could affect your case, contact Wheatley Immigration Law, LLC. Our attorney will evaluate your unique situation and help you work to achieve your American dream. Call us today at (504) 784-6803 to get started.

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