Biden's new plan to help half a million immigrants to eventually get US citizenship - GulfToday

Biden's new plan to help half a million immigrants to eventually get US citizenship

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Joe Biden interacts with people during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme at White House in Washington on Tuesday. AP

President Joe Biden ordered expansive election-year action on Tuesday to offer potential citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants without legal status in the US, aiming to balance his recent aggressive crackdown on the southern border that enraged advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.

The president announced that his administration will, in the coming months, allow certain US citizens' spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country.

The action by Biden, a Democrat, could affect upwards of half a million immigrants, according to senior administration officials.

"The Statue of Liberty is not some relic of American history. It still stands for who we are," Biden said from a crowded East Room at the White House, filled with advocates, congressional Democrats and immigrants who would be eligible for the programme.

"But I also refuse to believe that for us to continue to be America that embraces immigration, we have to give up securing our border. They’re false choices.”

Biden’s action, which amounts to the most expansive federal protection for immigrants in over a decade, sets up a significant political contrast with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose hardline stance on immigration includes a push for mass deportations and rhetoric casting migrants as dangerous criminals "poisoning the blood” of America.

On Tuesday, Biden accused "my predecessor” of preying on fears about immigrants as he chastised Trump administration moves, such as a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border that led to the separation of families.

But Trump has leaned into his own policies as Biden has faced disapproval of his handling of immigration throughout his presidency.

At a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, Trump proclaimed, "When I’m reelected, Joe Biden’s illegal amnesty plan will be ripped up and thrown out on the very first day that we’re back in office.”

Because the shadow of a second Trump administration looms over Biden’s new policy, Tuesday’s actions will set off a months-long sprint by Latino organisations to get as many people to apply for the programme as possible before next January.

Biden2-ImmigrationDeferred Action for Childhood Arrivals’ recipient Javier Quiroz Castro introduces Joe Biden at the White House in Washington on Tuesday. Reuters

To qualify for Biden's actions, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen, both as of Monday.

If a qualifying immigrant’s application is approved, he or she would have three years to apply for a green card and receive a temporary work permit and be shielded from deportation in the meantime.

About 50,000 non-citizen children with parents who are married to US citizen could also potentially qualify for the process, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

There is no requirement on how long the couple must have been married, but no one becomes eligible after Monday. That means immigrants who reach that 10-year mark after Monday will not qualify for the programme, according to the officials.

Senior administration officials said they anticipate the process will be open for applications by the end of the summer. Fees to apply have yet to be determined.

Biden formally unveiled his plans at a Tuesday event at the White House, which also marked the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, a popular Obama-era directive that offered deportation protections and temporary work permits for young immigrants who lack legal status.

The announcement was welcome news to families with mixed immigration status, such as Antonio and Brenda Valle in Los Angeles.

They have been married for nearly 12 years and have two sons who are US citizens, but they have lived with the worry every two years that Brenda Valle's status as a DACA recipient will not be renewed.

"We can start planning more long-term, for the future, instead of what we can do for the next two years,” she said.

Foday Turay was among those invited to the White House Tuesday for the announcement.

He came to the US when he was 10 years old from Sierra Leone, and is now a father to a young son and married to a third-generation US citizen.

Although he’s enrolled in DACA and working as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, his status doesn’t provide relief from the constant worry of deportation.

"My wife is tremendously impacted by this,” Turay said Tuesday before the ceremony.

"You know, every day she talks to me about what’s going to happen. What if I get deported? You know, how are we going to raise our son? What country are we going to raise him?”

Associated Press


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