Half a million immigrants could eventually get US citizenship under a new plan from Biden

Associated Press - June 19, 2024 6:08 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is taking an expansive election year step to offer relief to potentially hundreds of thousands of immigrants without legal status in the U.S., aiming to balance his own aggressive crackdown on the southern border earlier this month that enraged advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.

The White House announced Tuesday that the Biden administration will, in the coming months, allow certain spouses of U.S. citizens without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship. The move could affect upwards of half a million immigrants, according to senior administration officials.

To qualify, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years as of Monday and be married to a U.S. citizen. 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, shielded from deportation in the meantime.

About 50,000 noncitizen children with parents who are married to U.S. 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 program, 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 will speak about his plans at a Tuesday event at the White House, which will also mark the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a popular Obama-era directive that offered deportation protections and temporary work permits for young immigrants who lack legal status.

Democrats, even after the president’s efforts to restrict asylum earlier this month, hope to sharply contrast Biden with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and his campaign pledge to deport millions if he is reelected. Trump has leaned into his hardline policies as Biden has faced disapproval of his handling of immigration throughout his presidency, and on Tuesday, Trump’s campaign accused the incumbent president of creating “another invitation for illegal immigration.”

“Biden only cares about one thing — power — and that’s why he is giving mass amnesty and citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegals who he knows will ultimately vote for him and the Open Border Democrat Party,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has in the past advocated for a pathway to citizenship for those without legal status in the U.S., but on Tuesday, he called Biden’s policy a “disaster.”

“I just think it’s making every problem worse,” Graham said.

But Biden’s allies believe that the approach he is taking with his twin actions on immigration this month will resonate with voters.

 

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