Sunday, July 7, 2024
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HomeWorldBiden to Grant Legal Status to 500,000 Undocumented Spouses of American Citizens

Biden to Grant Legal Status to 500,000 Undocumented Spouses of American Citizens

On Tuesday, President Biden gave new protections to hundreds of thousands of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally for years but who are married to American citizens. Under the new policy, about 500,000 undocumented spouses will be protected from deportation and given a path to citizenship and legal work in the U.S. This is one of the biggest actions to protect immigrants since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program started 12 years ago to protect children brought to the U.S. illegally.

“These couples have been raising families, sending their kids to church and school, paying taxes, contributing to our country,” Biden said at the White House with Congress members and DACA recipients, known as Dreamers. “They’ve been living in the U.S. with fear and uncertainty. We can fix that.”

Biden also said he would make it easier for young immigrants, including Dreamers, to get work visas, which could help them get green cards. This would protect their legal status even if DACA, which is currently facing legal challenges, ends.

“We’re a much better and stronger nation because of Dreamers,” Biden said, celebrating the anniversary of the DACA program.

The new policy helps Biden balance his recent crackdown on asylum with a major pro-immigrant measure during a politically risky time. With five months until the presidential election, Biden is trying to reduce illegal border crossings without losing support from those who want a more humane immigration system after the Trump administration.

The policy aims to help people who have lived in the U.S. for more than a decade, building lives and families here. Although marrying an American usually leads to citizenship, those who crossed the border illegally must return to their home countries to get a green card. The new program lets them stay in the U.S. while seeking legal status.

There are about 1.1 million undocumented immigrants married to American citizens, according to FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group, but not all qualify for the program. To qualify, spouses must have lived in the U.S. for 10 years and been married to an American citizen as of June 17. They must not have a criminal record. The benefits also extend to about 50,000 children of undocumented spouses who are stepchildren of American citizens.

The new benefits for undocumented spouses won’t start right away; officials expect the program to begin by the end of the summer. Eligible people can then apply for the benefits. However, allies of former President Trump quickly criticized Biden. Speaker Mike Johnson said the president was “granting amnesty to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens.”

Biden said he had to use executive action on immigration because Republicans in Congress won’t act. Republicans blocked a bipartisan immigration bill in February, saying it wasn’t strong enough, even though it had some of the toughest restrictions in years.

Many Republicans, encouraged by Trump, didn’t want to give Biden a legislative win in an election year. “So much for Republicans caring about the border,” Biden said on Tuesday.

Two weeks ago, Biden bypassed Congress with an executive order preventing migrants from seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border during surges. This was Biden’s strictest border policy or any other modern Democrat’s.

The new policy could help Biden in swing states like Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia, which have more than 100,000 voters in “mixed status” households, according to the American Business Immigration Coalition, which supports the policy change.

While some Democrats praised Biden’s new policy, many immigration advocates are still worried about the future of DACA.

Since Obama created DACA in 2012, it has allowed hundreds of thousands of young adults to work and live without fear of deportation. But DACA has been closed to new applicants since 2017, when Trump tried to end it. It remains in legal limbo, even though it was revived for existing beneficiaries. Participants are now mostly in their mid-30s.

Recipients who were once children worried about their parents’ deportation “are now parents afraid of getting deported,” said Bruna Bouhid-Sollod, a senior political director at United We Dream Action, an advocacy group for DACA recipients. Biden aimed to address those fears with his announcement that Dreamers could more easily be sponsored for work visas by their employers.

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