Washington: A bicameral US Citizenship Act of 2021 proposing a pathway to citizenship to 11 million undocumented workers, elimination of per country quota for employment-based green cards and work authorisation for dependents of H-1B foreign workers, was introduced in the Congress.
The bill, if passed by both the chambers of the Congress – House of Representatives and the Senate – and signed into law by President Joe Biden would bring citizenship to millions of foreign nationals, including undocumented and those who came to the country legally.
The legislation would also benefit hundreds and thousands of Indian IT professionals and their families.
Authors of the bill – Senator Bob Menendez and Congresswoman Linda Sánchez – told reporters that the US Citizenship Act of 2021 establishes a moral and economic imperative and a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive.
It grows the economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from US universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system.
“I am the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico. I have dedicated my career to building an immigration system that lets people live without fear, and a system that gives immigrants – like my parents – who sought a better life and contribute to our nation a fair opportunity to thrive,” Sanchez said.
“Immigrants contribute greatly to our country and society. They own businesses, pay taxes and teach our children. They are our coworkers, neighbors and friends,” said Menendez.
“We have a historic opportunity to finally enact bold immigration reform that leaves no one behind, addresses root causes of migration, and safeguards our country”s national security. We have a moral and economic imperative to get this done once and for all,” he said.
The ruling Democrats have a majority in both the House and Senate. However, in the upper chamber, they need support of 10 Republicans to get the legislation through the Congress before it can be signed into law.
The Democratic leadership and the White House hope that they will get the necessary support in the interest of millions of non-citizens living in the country.
Supported by the White House, the bill creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, with an expedited three-year path to citizenship, and giving all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with an eight-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.
It reforms family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members. It also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protection for orphans, widows and children, allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the US on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
In a statement, Biden said he looks forward to working with leaders in the House and Senate to address the wrongdoings of the past administration and restore justice, humanity and order to the immigration system.
“This is an important first step in pursuing immigration policies that unite families, grow and enhance our economy, and safeguard our security,” he said.
“The legislation I sent to Congress will bring about much needed change to an immigration system where reform is long overdue. It will responsibly manage the border with smart investments. It will address the root causes of irregular migration from Central America.
It will modernise our legal immigration pathways and create an earned path to citizenship for so many – including Dreamers, farm workers and TPS holders,” he said
“These are not Democratic or Republican priorities, but American ones. I have laid out my vision for what it will take to reform our immigration system and I look forward to working with leaders in Congress to get this done,” Biden added.
Commenting on the development, FWD.us president Todd Schulte said it is a critical moment for immigration policy in the United States.
“This is a substantial step forward for major immigration legislation and would provide a desperately-needed pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants who have spent decades building their lives and families here. We commend President Biden for leading on this landmark bill, and Senator Menendez, Congresswoman Sánchez, and other original co-sponsors for this timely introduction,” Schulte said.
FWD.us represents top IT companies from the Silicon Valley.
Naureen Shah, senior advocacy and policy counsel for ACLU, said the Act is evidence that President Biden hears the resounding mandate of the election.
“American voters support our immigrant communities and want serious reform of our broken system. This legislation provides one of the most far-reaching pathways to citizenship and legal residency in recent history,” she said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described it as a hopeful and historic day. House Majority Leader Steny H Hoyer also hailed the bill as a major step towards achieving the kind of immigration reform long overdue in the country.
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