Overview of the Biden Immigration Reform Bill

Vice President Joe Biden has long supported immigration reform.

President Joseph R. Biden made the protection of immigrants the first part of his agenda to move forward on Inauguration Day. Biden veiled his immigration reform legislation today. I can’t offer a detailed analysis, but here is an overview.

Legalization and Pathway to Citizenship

The bill would allow undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. on January 1, 2021 to apply for temporary legal status. After five years of temporary residence, they can apply for permanent residence (“Green Card”). After three years of permanent residence, they can apply to become United States Citizens. DREAMers, those with Temporary Protected Status, and farmworkers don’t even need to to apply for temporary status. They could immediately apply for permanent residence.

Family Based Immigration

The bill provides for the elimination of the long waiting periods for Family Based immigration. It eliminates discrimination against LGBTQ+ families and places them on the same footing as hetero couples. It eliminates the reprehensible 3 and 10 year bars that block so many families from obtaining lawful permanent residence.

Protects Religion

The bill bars presidents from banning people from entering because of their religion.

Supports the Economy

The bill reduces waiting time for Employment Based immigration, protects foreign students who obtain jobs in the U.S. after graduation, and it increases protections against employer abuses for farmworkers and others with seasonal visas.

Immigration Enforcement

The bill contains provisions for border enforcement technology, it improves training of Homeland Security Staff in caring for detainees, and enhances enforcement against smugglers.

Relief for Central America

The bill allocates $4 Billion in aid for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. It also reinstitutes the Central American Minors program to allow some children to apply for asylum at U.S. embassies and consulates in their home countries.

Fix the Asylum System

The bill eliminates the one year deadline for filing for asylum. It increases protections for victims of domestic violence and for crime and trafficking victims.

In coming days I will do a deep-dive on some of these proposals.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.