President-elect Joe Biden has a lot of day one challenges, including full-blown economic, health and jobs crises. But he’s also got wider-reaching goals than just putting out fires, and one big one is immigration, the source of what might be his predecessor’s most divisive policies. Biden has rolled out an ambitious immigration overhaul that he plans to send to Congress on day one, and here are some of the big takeaways.
There are three main components to the bill: a path to citizenship, tech-based border enforcement and attempts to tackle the root causes of immigration in other countries.
The plan’s central feature in an eight-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which would put millions of qualifying immigrants into a five-year temporary status and then issue a green card after certain criteria are met. Qualifying individuals would be able to apply for full citizenship three years later. This plan will only be available to immigrants in the country as of January 1 of this year. “DREAMers” will be able to apply for a green card immediately.
Under the plan, Biden hopes to set up “reunification programs” for approved relatives of individuals who have already been admitted into the country — copying a similar program the U.S. had implemented in Cuba and Haiti that was ended under the Trump administration. The plan would also set up refugee screening centers abroad to help screen refugees at home instead of at the border, provide exemptions for certain doctoral graduates and grant work permits to families of immigrants with temporary worker visas.
The plan will not expand the border wall — the cornerstone of President Donald Trump’s immigration policy — but will evidently be calling on the Department of Homeland Security to start ramping up tech-based systems for border surveillance.
It’s not clear what odds the legislation faces in Congress, or whether or not Biden would use the executive order to muscle it through should the path in the Senate close. He’d need every Democrat plus at least ten Republicans to cross the aisle, no small feat in a deeply divided Congress. Some Republicans, like Senator Tom Cotton, have already dismissed the legislation as “open borders.” Others, like Sensators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, supported a 2013 attempt at immigration overhaul that ultimately fell apart in the then-Republican-controlled House.