Immigration Reforms Are Coming, Here’s Some of the New Changes Headed Our Way

Just hours after he was sworn in, President Joe Biden released a bill overhauling the U.S. immigration system with a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. As of January 22, deportations have been halted for the next 100 days; Immigration and Customs Enforcement are still working through details of the moratorium.

The decision to halt deportations for 100 days was made “to ensure we have a fair and effective immigration enforcement system focused on protecting national security, border security, and public safety,” according to a DHS news release.

While the deportations will halt for the next 100 days, the bill itself does face an uphill fight in the Senate, many of the changes will impact immigration laws for years to come.

Let’s look at some of the proposals.

Pathway to Citizenship: The bill allows undocumented individuals to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes. 

Dreamers, TPS holders, and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements are eligible for green cards immediately under the legislation. 

After three years, all green card holders who pass additional background checks and demonstrate knowledge of English and U.S. civics can apply to become citizens. 

Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021. The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for individuals deported on or after January 20, 2017, if those individuals were physically present for at least three years prior to removal. 

Lastly, the bill further recognizes America as a nation of immigrants by changing the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in our immigration laws.

Families in the System: The bill reforms the family-based immigration system by clearing backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating long wait times, and increasing per-country visa caps. 

It also eliminates the so-called “3 and 10-year bars,” and other provisions that keep families apart. 

The bill further supports families by more explicitly including permanent partnerships and eliminating discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families. It also provides protections for orphans, widows, children, and Filipino veterans who fought alongside the United States in World War II.

Lastly, the bill allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the United States on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.

Refugee Status: The bill provides new funding to state and local governments, private organizations, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and not-for-profit organizations to expand programs to promote integration and inclusion, increase English-language instruction, and provide assistance to individuals seeking to become citizens.

The bill eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs. It also increases protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000. The bill also expands protections for foreign nationals assisting U.S. troops.

Hiring Labor: The bill requires that DHS and the Department of Labor establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to make recommendations for improving the employment verification process.

Workers who suffer serious labor violations and cooperate with worker protection agencies will be granted greater access to U visa relief. 

The bill protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation from deportation in order to allow labor agencies to interview these workers. It also protects migrant and seasonal workers and increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws.

Immigration Court System: The bill expands family case management programs, reduces immigration court backlogs, expands training for immigration judges, and improves technology for immigration courts. 

The bill also provides judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals. Funding is authorized for legal orientation programs and counsel for children, vulnerable individuals, and others when necessary to ensure the fair and efficient resolution of their claims. 

The bill also provides funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children, while clarifying sponsor responsibilities for such children.

President Biden is expected to issue more immigration-related executive actions in the coming weeks. The immigration landscape is changing; the attorneys at Knezek Law Firm are here to help navigate you through the swift changes. Contact us today to discuss your situation.


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