Joe Biden will end the use of the word ‘alien’ as part of his proposed immigration bill which will put illegal immigrants on an eight-year path to citizenship.
The term, which dates back to the 1700s, would be changed to ‘non-citizen,’ in a symbolic move as part of a four-page outline plan.
The path to citizenship only applies to those present in the U.S. before January 1, 2021 – an attempt to prevent immigration reform leading to new pressure on the southern border.
She talked up the proposal after the administration released a four-page fact sheet on its plan, which would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship after an eight-year period.
It has not published the full text of a bill, with Pelosi’s description suggesting that it may be up to the House and the Senate to hash out details.
Major immigration changes are one area where the White House must secure cooperation from Congress to achieve results, even as Biden sets a new tone with a flurry of executive orders in a range of areas.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she was ‘pleased’ with the Administration’s immigration proposal
The proposal provides a path to citizenship for people here illegally by January 1, 2021 – a gesture to try not to encourage immigrant ‘caravans’ such as the group of people walking into Guatemala from Honduras this week
BIDEN’S IMMIGRATION REFORMS
PATH TO CITIZENSHIP
Every undocumented immigrant present in the U.S. on January 1, 2021 would be able to apply for a path to citizenship.
They would first apply for temporary legal status to remain in the country, which after five years can be converted to green cards, which give the unrestricted right to work and travel out of the U.S.
Converting to a green card will depend on passing criminal and homeland security background checks, and having paid taxes.
After three years of green card status, they will be able to apply for citizenship. To get citizenship, there will be more background checks, a civics test and an English test.
The number of illegal immigrants the path would apply to is unknown but there are estimates that the U.S. has as many as 11 million undocumented aliens.
‘DREAMERS’ CAN GET CITIZENSHIP IMMEDIATELY
More than 800,000 people who have legal status under DACA and other groups with Temporary Protected Status will be able to skip straight to applying for citizenship.
Recipients of DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – have had a question mark over their status throughout the Trump administration but Biden’s move signal that any legal attempts to end it by the administration will end.
Temporary Protected Status includes refugees from South Sudan, Syria, Haiti and Honduras . The precise number who hold the status is close to 500,000.
THE WORD ALIEN IS GONE
The Biden plan would replace the word ‘alien’ in federal law with ‘non-citizen.’
The word was first used in 1798 and has been the standard legal description for non-citizens in federal law since, but has been criticized as ‘polarizing’ by immigrant groups, and removed from legal descriptions in Democratic-controlled places such as New York City and the state of California.
The principles outlined in the fact sheet would allow people who came here illegally to be on a ‘roadmap’ to citizenship. They could apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and security checks.
They would also have to have paid taxes.
After another three years, after additional checks and English and civics assessments, they could apply to become citizens.
The ability to apply for green cards and therefore citizenship would be immediate for the so-called Dreamers, the recipients of DACA status who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children.
‘Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021,’ according to the plan, which comes as another migrant caravan has been making its way toward the U.S.
The fact sheet says the bill ‘prohibits discrimination based on religion and limits presidential authority to issue future bans’ and increases diversity visas to 80,000 from 55,000.
After four years of focus on President Trump’s border wall, amid a pause ordered by President Biden, the bill ‘provides funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism.’
‘We were also pleased to see the president come forward, the administration come forward with an immigration proposal,’ Pelosi told reporters Thursday.
‘We’re pleased,’ she continued, before referencing the legislative leaders who will have a key role. ‘And in the House Linda Sanchez will take a lead. Senator [Robert] Menendez in the Senate. It has the basic principles that we’ve talked about all along and we’ll see what the timetable is on that,’ she said.
Pelosi’s comments suggest a leadership-driven approach. Sanchez is a member of the Steering and Policy Committee and the Ways and Means Committee, but not the Judiciary Committee which has primary jurisdiction over immigration.