President Joe Biden meets with lawmakers in the Oval Office on Feb. 11.
The proposal is expected to include an earned pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and expand the refugee resettlement program.
The Biden administration and Hill Democrats are expected later this week to release an immigration reform bill, multiple sources familiar with the planning tell NBC News.
The legislative text of the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021” will reflect the immigration priorities that President Joe Biden unveiled on his first day in office. His proposal includes an earned pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, expands the refugee resettlement program and deploys more technology to the Southern border. There are additional protections that are being considered in the legislation, such as asylum processing in home countries for minors, expanded benefits for DREAMers and ending the public charge rule.
While previous attempts at massive immigration reform have failed under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the Biden White House has signaled support for breaking the legislation into pieces.
As a potential secondary path, lawmakers would work to pass bills legalizing farmworkers and Dreamers right away, and then move toward a more expansive overhaul. The main objective, officials and advocates say, is progress.
“If certain parts of the bill become building blocks, that’s fine,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.
Some parts of Biden’s immigration reform already have vehicles to move separately — and faster — through the House and Senate.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat, is leading the legislative push in the Senate.
“This plan is not only about fixing our broken immigration system, but building a better one that reunites families, brings the undocumented community out of the shadows and on a path to citizenship, stands up for human rights, addresses root causes of migration, and includes a smart border security strategy,” he said in a statement.
Rep. Linda T. Sánchez —vthe Democrat from California who is spearheading the legislative effort in the House — said many people are relying on reform.
Download the NBC News app for breaking news and politics
“From our Dreamers, to the service workers and farmers pulling us through this pandemic, there are too many relying on this reform for us to fail,” she said in a statement. “I look forward to working with President Biden as well as my House colleagues to finally make our immigration system more functional, fair, and humane.”
Biden’s has already signed a raft of executive actions reforming targeting immigration and rolling back Trump’s efforts.
Biden to Replace Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy, Accept Asylum Seekers
The Biden administration will begin slowly admitting into the U.S. asylum seekers who were turned away by the Trump administration under the so-called Remain in Mexico policy, according to Department of Homeland Security officials. The estimated 25,000 migrants waiting at the southern border who have active cases under the Migrant Protection Protocols program, or MPP, will be the first processed into the U.S. Other asylum seekers, such as those who arrived once the U.S. stopped processing asylum applications at ports of entry because of the Covid-19 pandemic, must continue to wait.
The Trump administration began the MPP program in January 2019, turning aside asylum seekers and making them stay in Mexico for the duration of their U.S. immigration court proceedings. The new policy marks a change of approach under President Joe Biden, who has sought to undo President Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies. “This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values. Especially at the border, however, where capacity constraints remain serious, changes will take time,” Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Homeland Security secretary, said in a press release. Two ports of entry will serve as the primary processing points for migrants with MPP cases. The officials did not indicate which ports, hoping, they said, to prevent a surge.
Mayorkas said in an interview on MSNBC Friday that “it’s going to take time” to begin admitting the migrants and urged them to be patient. “We are starting from square one,” he said. “It’s not turning on a light switch.” Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador applauded the decision, but urged Biden to go further by vastly expanding U.S. work visas. “Instead of migration through illegality, which is what has been happening, they can seek a mechanism to grant visas for workers, legalize all migration flows,” he said. “So there’s still more to do.” Biden has proposed a sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration law that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country without authorization. But the plan is regarded as unlikely to pass in the Senate, where Republicans hold half the seats. Most GOP lawmakers deride proposals to legalize undocumented immigrants as an improper “amnesty.”
Shortly after the changes go into effect on Feb. 19, the administration estimates it will be able to process about 300 people per day at each port of entry, a Homeland Security official said at a press briefing on Thursday night. Individuals will be tested for the coronavirus before entry, and will be released into the U.S., the Homeland Security officials said. International and nongovernmental organizations will be doing much of the work in Mexico to help triage MPP participants based on their date of enrollment and vulnerabilities. The organizations will also administer the coronavirus testing, though the U.S. will pay for it, one official said. “Individuals who are not eligible under this initial phase should wait for further instructions and not travel to the border. Due to the current pandemic, restrictions at the border remain in place and will be enforced,” Mayorkas said in the press release. Admitting people from the MPP program is the first step as the new administration tries to create legal pathways to entry into the U.S.
Biden admin to begin admitting migrants, reversing ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy
The Biden administration will soon begin allowing migrants waiting in Mexico while their asylum cases are processed to enter the country, in the latest reversal of the Trump administration’s immigration policy.
Starting next Friday, the Department of Homeland Security will begin to phase in a program to admit migrants with active cases, undermining the previous administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, officials said.
Under the previous policy, asylum seekers were forced to stay in Mexico while awaiting US proceedings.
“This latest action is another step in our commitment to reform immigration policies that do not align with our nation’s values,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
The newly confirmed secretary said the change does not mean the border is open to all migrants, adding that COVID-19 restrictions are in place.
“This announcement should not be interpreted as an opening for people to migrate irregularly to the United States,” the release stated, adding that only those with active cases will be allowed at designated times.
“We will continue to enforce US immigration law and border security measures throughout this process,” it continues.
Approximately 25,000 individuals have active cases, the agency said. Priority will be given to those who are most vulnerable and those who have waited longest.
News of the policy change comes a day after White House press secretary Jen Psaki struggled to answer how the administration was working to dispel the belief among migrants that the US border is open, instead shifting focus to the administration’s “moral and humane” immigration policy, amid a nearly 100 percent surge of illegal crossings.
“We continue to convey that this is not the time to come [to the United States]. The president is committed to putting in place, in partnership with our Department of Homeland Security, a moral and a humane process for processing people at the border, but that capacity is limited right now and it means we’re just not equipped to process people at the pace that we would like to,” Psaki said Thursday.
On Wednesday, a Border Patrol report revealed that the number of migrants apprehended at the border in the month of January more than doubled from the year before.
Dems now concerned over Biden’s immigration overhaul; ‘The Five’ reacts