Last month, Senator Robert Menendez (D- New Jersey) and Representative Linda Sanchez (D- California) unveiled a newly drafted immigration bill, known as the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The bill is based on a proposal announced by President Biden in January.
For the first time in decades, the bill introduces sweeping changes to immigration law that could help MANY noncitizens. It was however ONLY drafted by Democrats and did not receive bipartisan support at the drafting stage.
If passed by both the House and the Senate, the bill would create an eight-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants living in the United States as of January 1, 2021. The bill would also do away with restrictions on family-based immigration and would expand worker visas to allow more foreigners to come to the United States for jobs.
The recently proposed U.S. Citizenship Act is a massive bill, totaling 353 pages. Here are a few highlights from the bill that may be of interest:
A. Introduction of “Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status”, which creates a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and for some who were deported from the U.S.
Specifically, the proposal would do the following:
(1) removes the word alien and replaces it with non-citizens;
(2) provides for a six-year Lawful Prospective Immigrant status that can be renewed for another six years;
(3) allows non-citizens with no lawful status who entered on or before January1, 2021 to qualify for Lawful Prospective Immigrant Status, subject to certain conditions (e.g., passing a criminal background check and maintaining continuous presence in the United States);
(4) allows the non-citizen to apply for a work permit, travel document, and social security number;
(5) allows the non-citizen to apply for a green card (adjustment of status) at the five-year mark;
(6) allows for spouses and children to also be eligible; and
(7) allows for the noncitizen to able to apply for citizenship in three years after getting Lawful Permanent Resident status
B. Introduction of the Dream Act, a more direct pathway to a green card for undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. while under 18
Key take-aways include the following:
(1) There would be additional requirements to qualify including that non-citizen have graduated from high school.
(2) There is also a streamlined application process for those who have DACA. (would be eligible to apply for a green card right away).
C. Introduction of the American Promise Act, providing green card status to those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or those with Deferred Enforced Departure
D. Introduction of the Agricultural Workers Adjustment Act under which some agricultural workers would be eligible to adjust status (obtain a green card).
Other Key Points about the Proposals listed above:
1. Eligibility requirements for all includes: (1) the act of applying, (2) payment of fees, (3) physical presence in the United States when the non-citizen applies, and (4) continuous physical presence in the United States since January 1, 2021 until the application is approved.
2. Required documents include but are not limited to: (1) identification documents (e.g.: passport, birth certificate, school identification); and (2) evidence the non-citizen has been continuously physically present in the United States for the time required.
3. There is a waiver for those previously removed (deported) or granted Voluntary Departure under the prior administration which would allow non-citizen to return to the United States and apply. Those who re-entered unlawfully after previously being ordered removed may also be able to apply.
4. There is also language in the bill allowing for more flexibility for waivers on grounds of inadmissibility.
Other Proposals included in the Bill:
1. Four-year strategy to address root causes of migration;
2. Repeal of the three-year, ten-year and permanent bars;
3. Reformation of family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs;
4. Reclassification of spouses and minor children of lawful permanent residents as immediate relatives;
5. Reduction of immigration court backlogs;
6. Provision of more training to Immigration Judges;
7. In some cases, the elimination of the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims; and
8. Provision of funding to reduce asylum application.
Please note that the breakdown listed above does not encompass all the proposed changes in the bill!
Please check the Blaszkow Legal, PLLC immigration blog for further updates on this bill and please feel free to call Blaszkow Legal, PLLC if you have any questions.