Immigration reforms proposed by President Joe Biden expected to benefit more than 200,000 residents and families of Massachusetts
Some 200,000 Massachusetts residents without legal status stand to gain from the sweeping immigration plan President Joe Biden sent to Congress on Wednesday, his first full day in office.
Biden plans to unveil a bill that creates an eight-year citizenship pathway for immigrants without legal status, with a shorter pathway for those with temporary status, such as deferred action for arrivals d ‘children and temporary protected status, according to its campaign website.
The Delaware Democrat also plans to release a series of executive measures that reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to limit both legal and illegal immigration.
“I think the two are really comprehensive… and the bill is certainly very ambitious,” said Eliana Nader, president of the New England chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “I think executive action is really important because we know it can be done, and we know it can be done quickly. A lot of it is about reversing the damage Trump has done, but it’s a lot of damage that we need to start reversing. “
Immigration-related executive actions include preserving the DACA, halting construction of the border wall, rescinding the travel ban first imposed by the Trump administration when he took office in January 2017, rescinding Trump’s executive order to remove immigration enforcement priorities (another step Trump took in his first year), rescind Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented migrants of the 2020 census and extend the delayed forced departure for Liberians.
The legislation is even broader. The proposal, the 2021 U.S. Citizenship Act, would make TPS holders, immigrant farm workers, and DACA-eligible people or “dreamers” eligible to immediately apply for green cards. They would be eligible for U.S. citizenship after three years provided they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes, according to Biden’s campaign website.
Other immigrants without legal status would have temporary status for five years before being eligible for a green card. Once they get a green card, they can apply for citizenship after three years.
Biden’s immigration plan offers a shorter route to citizenship than the 13-year route proposed in the 2013 Gang of Eight bill that ultimately failed.
Although the wording of the bill is not yet available, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition President Eva Millona has said it is the most aggressive immigration reform proposal of recent years.
“This is one of the most progressive bills of all time, but the devil is in the details,” Millona said. “We haven’t seen the language, so I’m not ready to have a political conversation right now, but from what we know, this is truly one of the most progressive bills, which really accelerates [lawful permanent status] for DACA and GST and farm workers.
In total, the proposal is expected to benefit about 250,000 people in Massachusetts, ranging from those without legal status to those with pending applications to DACA and TPS holders.
Massachusetts is home to about 215,000 immigrants without legal status, according to the Institute for Migration Policy, who based their calculations on 2018 census data. The exact number of people without legal status, however, is unknown.
Others lived in Massachusetts with temporary permission to stay in the country, such as through DACA or TPS, but federal law provided no way for people with temporary status to qualify for the cards. green. These foreign-born nationals were targeted for deportation under former President Donald Trump as he sought to end those protections.
There are approximately 12,000 GST holders living in Massachusetts. The vast majority come from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua and Sudan.
About 5,600 Massachusetts residents had DACA no later than 2019, according to the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. But a larger group of dreamers have struggled to get the DACA or renew it, and they could potentially qualify for a green card under Biden’s plan.
The Trump administration not only fought to end DACA, but also imposed hurdles that lawyers say made it harder for eligible dreamers to maintain their legal status while legal challenges to their protections.
As efforts to end DACA were challenged in court, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Agency ordered in August 2019 that DACA recipients renew their protections annually, instead of all. every two years.
“That’s double the money all kids have to spend on work permit renewal fees each year,” Nader said, referring to the $ 495 application fee. “It placed an additional burden on everyone. “
Changes to family-based immigration
The bill proposes other changes to the immigration law that aim to facilitate the legal entry of foreigners into the country, which flies in the face of Trump’s agenda to limit immigration and suppress people without legal status.
While Trump opposed family immigration, Biden’s bill would seek to eliminate massive visa processing backlogs and increase visa ceilings for some countries.
The proposal would also eliminate the so-called “3 and 10 year bars” that prevent people who have entered the country without permission to return legally.
Immigrants who have been in the United States without permission for more than six months, but less than one year, cannot return for three years. Those who have been in the United States for a year or more are prohibited from re-entering the country for at least 10 years.
MIRA’s Millona says the provision alone would help around 1 million people across the country, allowing families to reunite with loved ones who could not come from other countries.
Biden’s campaign website says the bill also allows immigrants to enter the country on family sponsorship petitions. If approved, someone can enter the country to stay temporarily with their family while waiting for green cards to become available. The campaign’s website, however, did not specify what temporary means.
Biden’s proposal would eliminate the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and allocate funds to reduce the backlog of claims.
The asylum application deadline was first imposed under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Liability Act 1996, but recently arrived foreigners who qualify for the asylum often do not know the filing deadline. If they miss it, lawyers say it can become nearly impossible for them to gain asylum status in court, even if they have a credible fear of persecution.
Often, people who have recently arrived in the country mistakenly think that they have to wait for an immigration court hearing to seek asylum only to find out in court two or three years later that this was not the case, Nader said.
“Because of the delays, you don’t show up to court until two years later, and now you’ve missed your chance,” she said. The delays are often attributed to the massive backlog, which only increased under the Trump administration.
Other delays have arisen because notices were sent to the wrong address or for other issues beyond the person’s control, including, most recently, an outbreak of COVID-19, Nader said.
Previous attempts at immigration reform have failed to gain traction, even under a Democratic-majority Congress, but attorneys and attorneys hope the new president’s broad immigration reform proposal will expand options. for foreign-born residents living in Massachusetts.
“The hope is that fellow Republicans will join the president in working on a bill that is good for the country, that is politically and economically responsible, and that meets the needs of 21st century politics,” Millona said. “Our hope is that this just isn’t a token bill, but it’s something moving forward.”