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Biden, Congressional Democrats Unveil Immigration Reform Legislation -- What’s In It And How Would Undocumented Immigrants Apply?

A migrant holds a sign reading
A migrant holds a sign reading "Biden: enlight the way for a humane immigration reform" in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico on January 19, 2021.

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President Joe Biden's administration is joining Democrats on Capitol Hill to unveil a major immigration overhaul that would offer an eight-year pathway to citizenship to the estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status.

The legislation, to be released in detail Thursday morning, will reflect the broad priorities for immigration reform that Biden laid out on his first day in office, including an increase in visas, funding to process asylum applications and new technology at the southern border. But while the plan offers one of the fastest pathways to citizenship of any proposed measure in recent years, it does so without offering any enhanced border security, which past immigration negotiations have used as a way to win Republican votes. Without enhanced security, it faces tough odds in a closely divided Congress.

The bill would immediately provide green cards to farm workers, those with temporary protected status and young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. For others living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, the plan establishes a five-year path to temporary legal status, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. Then, after three years, they can pursue citizenship. The plan also includes $4 billion spread over four years to try to boost economic development and tackle corruption in Latin American countries, to try to address some of the root causes of migration to the U.S. 

With files from the Associated Press


Molly O’Toole, reporter covering immigration and security at The Los Angeles Times Washington D.C. bureau; she tweets @mollymotoole

Alma Rosa Nieto, a practicing immigration attorney based in Los Angeles and vice chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s media advocacy committee; she tweets @almarosanieto