Proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Takes Shape

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the Biden Administration’s broad overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, was announced on February 18 by its chief sponsors Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey; and Representative Linda T. Sanchez, Democrat of California.  They were joined by 10 other members of Congress in announcing the proposed legislation.

At its center is an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the ll million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.  After passing background checks and paying taxes, they would be allowed to live and work here for five years.  After that they could apply for a green card, giving them permanent status in the U.S. and the opportunity to earn citizenship after three more years.

The bill also includes the most far-reaching changes in immigration law in three decades.  It would end restrictions on family-based immigration, making it easier for spouses and children to join family members already in the U.S.  And it would expand worker visas to allow more foreigners to come to the United States for jobs.

Unlike other efforts to change immigration policies, the legislation does not include increased border enforcement.  Instead it would provide funding to  process migrants legally at ports of entry and invest $4 billion over four year in Central American countries with the goal of preventing people from fleeing to the U.S. because of security and economic crises.

The Biden administration also acted on Thursday to limit the number of arrests and deportations of undocumented immigrants, issuing temporary guidelines that require immigration agents to seek approval before trying to deport individuals who don’t present national security threats, have felony convictions, or have recently tried to cross the border illegally.