With the inauguration of President Joseph Biden came the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which is intended to help secure and manage the border while facilitating better management of migration throughout the country. The bill, recently sent to Congress, is part of the president’s promise to make radical changes to the U.S. immigration system.
In addition to giving people who’ve been in the country for years a chance to earn citizenship, the bill aims to help stimulate the economy, keep families together, and use intelligent investing to improve border security, among other improvements. Here are some of the specific aspects of the bill that are important for individuals to understand.
Enabling Undocumented Immigrants to Undergo Naturalization
The Citizenship Act of 2021 will provide a pathway to citizenship by allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status in the U.S. Specifically, tax-paying undocumented individuals will be able to apply for green cards after a period of five years, provided they pass background checks. After three years as a green card holder, they will be able to apply for citizenship if they continue to pass background checks and demonstrate fundamental knowledge of both U.S. civics and English.
While most applicants are required to have been present in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) could provide exemptions for individuals deported on or following January 20, 2017, as long as they were physically present in the U.S. for a minimum of three years before deportation for humanitarian reasons.
Additionally, the bill will promote naturalization for immigrants through new funding to both local and state governments, along with educational institutions, private organizations, and non-profit or community-based organizations to promote inclusion and integration. In the process, funding will also go toward providing assistance to people who want to gain citizenship, including English language courses.
Improving Border Security with Additional Resources
The bill pledges more budgeting for additional technology that would help increase the efficiency of screening and identification of contraband, including narcotics, at every port of entry. The bill also authorizes and funds improved infrastructure at all ports of entry and bordering railroads, which can help improve the processing of asylum seekers and further prevent the entry of narcotics.
At the same time, improved border management can help protect border communities by promoting agent and officer safety through continuing education and proper training. The bill aims to help prevent misuse of force through department-wide policies, provide more special agents to conduct investigations into administrative and criminal misconduct, and create a Border Community Stakeholder Advisory Committee.
Keeping Families Together
One of the biggest criticisms of Trump-era immigration policies was the separation of families, which the new bill will reform. The new bill will recapture unused visas, clear backlogs, increase per-country visa caps, and shorten wait times to help ensure that families stay together.
Other benefits of the Citizenship Act of 2021 include stimulation of the economy, embracing diversity, and protecting workers from exploitation through improved employee verification, among others. All of these changes can improve the immigration system for the benefit of both immigrants and the U.S. as a whole.