U.S. Democratic lawmakers introduced President Joe Biden’s immigration bill Thursday that would provide one of the quickest routes to citizenship of any proposed legislation in recent years.
The measure, which would allow some 11 million current U.S. residents to become citizens within eight years, includes an increase in visas and funding for processing asylum applications.
The bill also would enhance technology at the U.S.-Mexico border, expand international drug interdiction task forces in Central America, and attempt to ease backlogs at the border by establishing refugee processing in the region.
The measure would immediately provide green cards to farm workers, people with temporary protected status and young people who entered the U.S. illegally as children, allowing them to live and work permanently in the U.S.
The bill reflects the priorities Biden presented on his first day in office and was sponsored by 12 Democratic lawmakers, including lead sponsors Senator Bob Menendez and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez.
“It will modernize our system, offer a path to citizenship for hardworking people in our communities, reunite families, increase our opportunities for legal immigration and ensure America remains a powerhouse for innovation and a beacon of hope to refugees around the world,” Menendez said, as he unveiled details of the bill at a virtual news conference.
Comprehensive immigration reform has failed to gain meaningful support in Congress for decades. It last passed a significant citizenship measure in 1986, when Republican President Ronald Reagan signed an amnesty bill legalizing nearly 3 million illegal immigrants.
Some Republican senators already have voiced opposition to major proposals in the bill, as has the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“This latest move would only further harm American workers already struggling from our health and economic national crises caused by the ongoing pandemic and our government's response,” said Heritage Action Executive Director Jessica Anderson.
While Democrats have a majority in the House, the 100-member Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris would cast the tie-breaking vote if necessary.