Congressional Democrats introduced an expansive immigration bill Thursday in the House and Senate that would create an eight-year citizenship path for millions of immigrants already in the U.S. and a faster track for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 will cut the time to acquire citizenship from 13 years to eight years, according to an administration official.
Individuals will hold temporary status for five years and then have three years to get citizenship.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status recipients could apply for green cards immediately under the proposed legislation.
In another three years, they can apply for citizenship if they pass background checks and demonstrate proficiency in the English language and U.S. civics.
“Applicants must be physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021,” the fact sheet of the bill reads.
The bill will also change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws.
The bill will also provide funding for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to start clearing the backlog of asylum applications.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Democratic Rep. Linda Sánchez of California.
“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,” Mendez said in a statement.
Administration officials said that the legislation was meant to restart a conversation on overhauling the immigration system.
“[President Joe Biden] was in the Senate for 36 years, and he is the first to tell you the legislative process can look different on the other end than where it starts,” an official told reporters, according to CNN.
“The President is committed to working with Congress to engage in conversations about the best way forward.”
There are other bills currently in Congress that are aimed at revising smaller pieces of the immigration system.
For example, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois have reintroduced their bipartisan DREAM Act to give young, undocumented immigrants the opportunity to pursue citizenship, according to CNBC.
Administration officials said it would be up to Congress whether the best path forward would be to pass one bill or break it into pieces.
“There’s things that I would deal by itself, but not at the expense of saying, ‘I’m never going to do the other.’ There is a reasonable path to citizenship,” Biden said at a CNN town hall Tuesday.
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