Shropshire Star

Biden opens door for 500,000 immigrants to become US citizens

A new law announced on Tuesday will make it easier for some people married to Americans to gain US citizenship.

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Joe Biden smiling

President Joe Biden is taking an expansive, election-year step to offer relief to potentially hundreds of thousands of immigrants without legal status in the US.

The move is aimed at balancing his own aggressive crackdown on the border earlier this month that enraged advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.

The White House announced on Tuesday that the Biden administration will, in the coming months, allow certain spouses of US citizens without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually, citizenship.

The move could affect upwards of half a million immigrants, according to senior administration officials.

President Joe Biden had launched a crackdown on asylum seekers crossing the US-Mexico border (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

“The Statue of Liberty is not some relic of American history. It still stands for who we are,” Mr Biden said from a crowded East Room at the White House, filled with advocates, congressional Democrats and immigrants who would be eligible for the program.

“But I also refuse to believe that for us to continue to be an America that embraces immigration, we have to give up securing our border. They’re false choices.”

Democrat Mr Biden’s action, which amounts to the most expansive federal protection for immigrants in over a decade, sets up a significant political contrast with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose hard-line stance on mass deportations includes rhetoric casting migrants as dangerous criminals “poisoning the blood” of America.

On Tuesday, Mr Biden accused “my predecessor” of preying on fears about immigrants as he chastised Trump administration moves, such as a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border that led to the separation of families.

But Mr Trump has leaned into his own policies as Mr Biden has faced disapproval of his handling of immigration throughout his presidency, and on Tuesday, Mr Trump’s campaign accused the incumbent president of creating “another invitation for illegal immigration”.

Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said: “Biden only cares about one thing — power — and that’s why he is giving mass amnesty and citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegals who he knows will ultimately vote for him and the Open Border Democrat Party.”

To qualify, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years as of Monday and be married to a US citizen.

If a qualifying immigrant’s application is approved, he or she would have three years to apply for a green card, receive a temporary work permit and be shielded from deportation in the meantime.

About 50,000 non-citizen children with a parent who is married to a US citizen could also potentially qualify for the same process, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the proposal on condition of anonymity.

There is no requirement on how long the couple must have been married, and no one becomes eligible after Monday.

That means immigrants who reach that 10-year mark any time after June 17 2024, will not qualify for the programme, according to the officials.

Senior administration officials said they anticipate the process will be open for applications by the end of the summer, and fees to apply have yet to be determined.

Election 2024 Trump
Donald Trump campaign accused Joe Biden of creating ‘another invitation for illegal immigration’ (Matt Rourke/AP)

Mr Biden formally unveiled his plans at an event at the White House, which also marked the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme, a popular Obama-era directive that offered deportation protections and temporary work permits for young immigrants who lack legal status.

The president also announced new regulations that will allow certain Daca beneficiaries and other young immigrants to more easily qualify for long-established work visas.

That would allow qualifying immigrants to have protection that is sturdier than the work permits offered by Daca, which is currently facing legal challenges and is no longer taking new applications.

Tuesday’s announcement comes two weeks after Mr Biden unveiled a sweeping crackdown at the US-Mexico border that effectively halted asylum claims for those arriving between officially designated ports of entry.

Immigrant-rights groups have sued the Biden administration over that directive, which a senior administration official said on Monday had led to fewer border encounters between ports.

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