Updated: March 4, 2021
Incoming President Joseph R. Biden Jr. plans to send a groundbreaking legislative package to Congress, in his first days in office, with the aim of speeding up the path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States, the Los Angeles Times first reported on Saturday, quoting immigrant rights activists in communication with the Biden-Harris team.
The anticipated immigration package would be the most significant policy shift since 1986, when President Reagan granted legal status to 3 million undocumented immigrants.
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There is likely going to be a pushback from conservative voters even with Democrats holding the White House and slim majorities in both Congressional chambers. This may compel Biden to issue more executive actions rather than legislation.
President of Community Change Action, Praeli, based in Washington, D.C., stated that a pro-immigration bill is “an important opening act.”
Lora Ries, former Deputy Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security in 2019 and now a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation said granting most immigrants a pathway to citizenship would create division and negatively impact the country’s immigration system.
Many think a Democratic majority in the Senate will make a difference when reforming the immigration system. Praeli told the LA Times, “You cannot be essential and deportable.” It’s estimated millions of both undocumented and documented immigrants have been essential workers during the pandemic.
The bill is also expected to overturn Trump’s 2017 travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and providing green cards to immigrants opening the way for tax-funded food stamps or other public benefits.