President-elect Joe Biden plans to “immediately” introduce a sweeping immigration reform bill during his first days in office. The new legislation, currently being drafted by congressional Democrats and immigrant rights advocates, will include a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Top Latino and immigrant advocacy groups were struck by the boldness of the coming legislation, saying they were “floored” by the “aggressive agenda.”
Biden’s plan “is the most aggressive agenda that I have seen on immigration reform from day one — not only the legislative package but also executive orders,” said Hector Sanchez Barba, head of Mi Familia Vota.
Jess Morales Rocketto, executive director of Care in Action, was also impressed: “We were totally floored by the immigration plan and the level of clarity.”
According to the LA Times, not only does the new aggressive plan give Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) a shorter pathway to citizenship but also is void of any “provisions directly linking an expansion of immigration with stepped-up enforcement and security measures.”
The bill will also make allowances for immigrants who are front-line essential workers.
“I hope the Congress and our nation will recognize that these immigrants stepped up when the United States needed the most and put themselves in danger every day by serving as essential workers during this deadly pandemic,” incoming Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said on Friday.
The expected pushback from Republicans has already begun. Lora Ries, former acting deputy chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security under Trump, told the Times that the legislation undermines security.
“Such rewards will attract more people to illegally enter the U.S. to await their eventual green card, undermining border security,” Ries said.
It should be no surprise where the lack of empathy party stands on this issue. Just this week the DOJ’s inspector general found that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and high-ranking Justice Department officials were the “driving force” behind separating migrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border, and they paid little mind to how those families would ever reunite. According to the investigation, Sessions told U.S. attorneys who raised concerns during a conference call, “We need to take away children,” and, “If [undocumented immigrants] care about kids, don’t bring them in.”
Biden’s legislation, if passed, would be the most extensive immigration policy since President Reagan’s Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which, according to the Times, granted legal status to 3 million people who were in the country without documentation.
It’s worth remembering, however, that former president Barrack Obama tried to pass comprehensive immigration reform during his two terms in office, but both Republicans and the Supreme Court blocked it. So Biden will not have an easy road ahead in Congress, although he will have some power to carry out certain portions of his plan using executive orders.