President Biden Announces Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Immigrant Spouses

President Biden Proposes Citizenship for Undocumented Spouses

President Biden unveiled a new immigration initiative Tuesday, creating a pathway to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens. The announcement was highlighted at the White House with members of Congress, immigration advocates, and U.S. citizens who have been unable to sponsor their spouses for green cards due to complex immigration regulations.

Program Details and Impact

The program aims to assist immigrants who have resided in the U.S. for at least ten years, providing them with work permits, protection from deportation, and a way to apply for green cards—the stepping stone to citizenship. An administration official expects the application process to begin by the end of the summer.

The initiative aims to rival DACA, a significant immigration program launched by former President Barack Obama in 2012. The White House plans to mark DACA’s 12-year anniversary during the event on Tuesday. It’s set to be one of the largest immigration programs in recent decades.

Creating a rival to DACA shows a complex stance on immigration policy, challenging established programs, according to WSJ Subscription Offers.

Balancing Tougher Border Policies with Relief

Two weeks ago, President Biden introduced a stringent immigration policy: a broad asylum ban for illegal border crossers. Advisors have long debated adding incentives to new border restrictions to appease immigration advocates and Latino voters. The policy aims to avoid alienating those with family members lacking legal status. It seeks to strike a balance in immigration reform amidst ongoing political and social debates.

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Focus on Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Sources familiar with the discussions revealed that the president’s team prioritized relief for spouses. They noted a similar existing program for military families over the past decade. Advisors cited Democratic polling indicating broad public support for legalizing spouses of U.S. citizens. This support persists regardless of their initial unlawful entry into the country.

Addressing Long-Term Undocumented Immigrants

The new initiative also targets a demographic that immigration advocates have told the White House has felt overlooked. While the administration has launched several programs to grant over a million newly-arriving immigrants work permits, long-term undocumented immigrants in the U.S.—primarily Mexicans—have not benefited.

Under current law, even if an undocumented immigrant marries a U.S. citizen, they must leave the country for 10 years before becoming eligible for a green card.

Republican Criticism and Legal Mechanisms

Republicans preemptively criticized the initiative, labeling it a form of mass amnesty.

President Biden’s program uses parole in place under immigration law to admit immigrants despite illegal entry. This allows easier green card applications and shields from potential reversals. Parole in place grants deportation relief and work permits as immigrants pursue permanent residency. It ensures stability amid potential policy changes.

The program will not benefit spouses living outside the U.S. or those who have illegally overstayed visas due to its specific mechanism.

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