Biden Administration Moves to Offer Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Biden Administration Moves to Offer Path to Citizenship for Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens - Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images via pbs.org Photo Source: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images via pbs.org

President Joe Biden has ordered expansive actions to provide potential citizenship to hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, particularly focusing on those married to U.S. citizens. This initiative aims to balance the administration’s recent aggressive stance on border security, which has drawn criticism from immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers.

The administration's new policy will allow certain undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens to apply for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship without the need to leave the country. According to senior administration officials, this action could benefit up to half a million immigrants.

“The Statue of Liberty is not some relic of American history. It still stands for who we are,” Biden stated during the announcement at the White House. “But I also refuse to believe that for us to continue to be America that embraces immigration, we have to give up securing our border. They’re false choices.”

Biden’s announcement sets a clear contrast with former President Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, known for his stringent immigration policies and rhetoric. Trump has criticized Biden's approach, claiming it encourages illegal immigration and promising to repeal such policies if re-elected.

During a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, Trump proclaimed, “When I’m reelected, Joe Biden’s illegal amnesty plan will be ripped up and thrown out on the very first day that we’re back in office.”

The policy, which will be open for applications by the end of summer, requires immigrants to have lived in the U.S. for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen as of the announcement date. Qualifying applicants will receive a temporary work permit and be shielded from deportation while they apply for a green card over three years.

This policy follows Biden’s recent crackdown on the U.S.-Mexico border, which effectively halted asylum claims for those arriving outside designated ports of entry. While this move has faced legal challenges from immigrant-rights groups, the administration believes that the combined approach will resonate with voters.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut emphasized, “The only party that is being serious about border security is the Democrats. The only party that’s being thoughtful and compassionate about what to do with people who are living in the shadows are the Democrats.”

The policy will utilize “parole in place” authority, previously used by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to support family members of military personnel. This process allows qualifying immigrants to apply for U.S. permanent residency without leaving the country, removing a significant barrier for undocumented individuals married to Americans.

Andrea Flores, vice president at FWD.us and former policy adviser in the Obama and Biden administrations, hailed the move as “the biggest win for the immigrant rights movement since the announcement of DACA 12 years ago.”

While the policy has energized Latino communities and immigration advocates, Republicans have sharply criticized it. Representative Richard Hudson, chair of House Republicans’ campaign arm, labeled the policy a “mass amnesty plan.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott predicted that the directive would be struck down by the courts.

Lawrence J. Tjan
Lawrence J. Tjan
Lawrence is an attorney with practical experience in corporate and general business legal matters, as well as law practice management. His litigation experience includes issues dealing with antitrust, bad faith and medical malpractice. His transactional experience includes buy-sell agreements, Reg D disclosures, investor subscription agreements, and stock option plans.
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