Democrats to send sweeping new immigration bill to Congress

Legislation could open path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants

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Democrats are expected to propose a sweeping new immigration bill in Congress on Thursday.
The bill was a major cornerstone of President Joe Biden's campaign and would profoundly change the country's immigration policies.

The US Citizen Act of 2021, if passed, would create an eight-year path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. It would make farmworkers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) recipients, as well as people with Temporary Protected Status, including 6,800 Syrians, eligible to receive green card residency visas immediately if they meet certain security requirements.

The bill embraces Mr Biden’s vision for a more diverse and inclusive America. It includes a No Ban Act that prohibits discrimination based on religion and would limit presidential authority over the issue in the future. It would also increase the number of diversity visas issued every year from 55,000 to 80,000.

The president tapped two children of immigrants, Linda T Sanchez, a representative from California, and Robert Menendez, a senator from New Jersey, to steer the bill through Congress. But they face an uphill battle.

The US has not passed any major immigration reform since Ronald Reagan signed a sweeping law into effect in 1986, giving amnesty to three million undocumented immigrants.

There have been several attempts since, most recently in 2013. The Democrats have a small majority in Congress and the Senate is split 50-50, meaning any bill would require significant bipartisan support to pass.

"We Democrats are putting forward President Biden's vision for immigration reform because we believe it is the right vision for immigration reform," Mr Menendez said at a conference held in advance of introducing the bill.

“We know the path forward will demand negotiation with others but we are not going to make concessions out of the gate. We are not going to start with two million undocumented people instead of 11. We will never win an argument that we don't have the courage to make."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: "Comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship has long been a priority of mine, and I believe it is one of the most important things this Congress can do."

Jim Jordan, a representative from Ohio, urged fellow Republicans not to support the bill. He tweeted: “Republicans shouldn’t support any immigration reform bill that does not secure the border, does not permanently end catch and release and does not end incentives for illegal immigration.”

Mr Biden, who spent 36 years in the Senate, said he is open to working with Republicans on the bill and is hoping to find support in the party.

Mr Biden also hinted at a willingness to pursue several avenues to reforming immigration. That could mean introducing smaller, more targeted bills along the way that focus on specific aspects of immigration policy.