Early in his presidential term, President Biden sent a bill to Congress called the U.S Citizen Act of 2021. The bill–a stark contrast to the previous administration’s approach to immigration–would seek to create a legalized pathway to citizenship for many incoming and current immigrants in the U.S. The goal of the bill is to “manage and secure” the U.S border by creating a system that makes citizenship more accessible to other immigrant groups. The three core focus areas of the bill center around a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people already living in the U.S, enhancing border security through technology and infrastructure, and learning more about the causes of the immigration crisis by looking at the countries that are producing the most immigrant populations.
The main proponent of the bill comes in the form of a pathway to citizenship for many “Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers” already residing in the country. If they pass “criminal and national security checks and pay their taxes” they would be eligible for a green card immediately under the act, and eligible to apply for citizenship after three years. At their discretion, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could waive the requirement to be physically present in the U.S for people who are deported after January 20, 2017, if they left to be reunited with family or for humanitarian reasons.
There is also an increase in immigrant support by implementing policies that would help keep families together and amending the use of the word “alien” to non-citizen. It would also improve the employment verification process to protect workers from being exploited through various organizations, and it seeks to increase diversity through the NO BAN act and the number of diversity visas issued. Lastly, it helps immigrants by furthering transition into American society and economy though programs that help increase English proficiency, inclusivity, and ability to stay and work in both STEM and labor-intensive work sectors.
Another focus of the U.S Citizenship Act is the improvements to border security. New technology meant to expediate the process of screening and scanning for illegal drugs in various ports of entry. Technologies meant to improve the process for asylum seekers and for border patrol to break out when needed for apprehension. The bill also seeks to improve training and education for officers and agents for Border Patrol. Additional measures will be implemented to better protect immigrants through the implementation of “rescue beacons” and new standards of treatment for people in custody.
Other improvements are geared towards understanding the causes that are fueling the waves of immigration, such as increased support to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala to address those issues will be given. Immigration courts and asylum applications will see further improvements to relieve backlogs.
The U.S Citizenship Act of 2021 is still looking at an uphill climb to come into legal force because it requires some level of bipartisan support (ten republicans and all the democrats would need to approve it in the Senate), but there is a possibility that it can become a reality.