Democrats in Congress have formally introduced President Joe Biden’s new immigration bill that proposes sweeping changes favoring millions of aliens already in the country despite a lack of public support from the Republicans.
The aggressive pro-immigration bill proposes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for about 11 million people living in the United States illegally.
“The U.S. Citizenship Act provides an earned path to citizenship for our nation’s undocumented community, with qualifying Dreamers, TPS (Temporary Protected Status) holders, and essential farmworkers that feed America eligible for green cards immediately,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of the bill in a statement.
“We must honor this truth: that immigrants are the constant reinvigoration of America, making America more American as they bring their hopes, courage and determination to succeed to our shores,” she added.
While the plan offers one of the fastest pathways to citizenship of any proposed measure in recent years, it does so without offering any enhanced border security, which past immigration negotiations have used as a way to win Republican votes. Without enhanced security, the bill faces tough odds in a closely divided Congress.
Some GOP members have already expressed their opposition to the approach of the proposed reforms.
“No! This is not the right time and certainly not the right set of policies,” Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) wrote in Twitter, pointing to the pandemic. “Let’s focus on those Americans who are struggling right now.”
“The left wants to fund this border security around the Capitol but they don’t want to fund a border wall at our southern border,” Rep. Nancy Mace, (R-S.C.) told Fox News.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that Biden’s immigration proposal is “blatantly partisan” and disregards the country’s safety and economy.
It “rewards those who broke the law” and “floods the labor market at a time when millions of Americans are out of work,” he said. “President Biden’s radical proposal is a nonstarter and should be rejected by Congress.”
— House Judiciary GOP (@JudiciaryGOP) February 18, 2021
The criticism from the GOP was echoed by Heritage Action, the political wing of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“This latest move would only further harm American workers already struggling from our health and economic national crises caused by the ongoing pandemic and our government’s response,” said Jessica Anderson, the organization’s executive director.
The plan, which is hundreds of pages long, proposes that people living illegally in the United States as of Jan. 1, 2021, will be eligible for a five-year path to temporary legal status, given they pass background checks, pay taxes, and fulfill other basic requirements. Three years after that, they can pursue U.S. citizenship.
The proposal also includes gifting $4 billion to initiatives in Latin American communities “to confront corruption, enhance security, and foster prosperity.” Taxpayer money would also be allocated for more judges and support staff to process asylum applications, an asylum processing facility in Central America to reduce foot traffic at the southern border, and new technology.
Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) sponsored the bill.
Menendez suggested that a piecemeal approach to the wide-ranging policy shifts presented in the legislation may be one way Democrats attempt to pass the reforms through Congress.
“If we can get certain elements of this standing up and passed individually both in the House and the Senate, that’s great,” he said, adding, “We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold, and inclusive immigration reform.”
“How it happens through the legislative process remains to be seen,” Pelosi said. “But it is a priority and we will be working on it.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.