Democrats introduce bill to provide pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants

Coincidentally or not, these efforts occur as migrants are again moving through Central America and Mexico. 

Gage Skidmore/Flickr - Image resized

Democrats released the “U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021” Thursday, providing an eight-year pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million illegal immigrants.

The bill would increase the number of diversity visas from 55,000 to 80,000, while employment-based visas increase from 140,000 to 170,000. The bill also triples the number of visas available to victims of crimes, such as domestic violence.

Those receiving the visas are also eligible to bring family members to the U.S., so the overall number of immigrants from countries currently with low immigration levels likely rises, too.

The rest of the roughly 11 million illegal aliens in the country can apply for a five-year program where they won’t be deported, and can work while they go through (some sort of) a background check system. At the end of five years, they are eligible for a green card; three years later, they can apply for citizenship.

The bill does not include additional money for border security.

Coincidentally or not, these efforts occur as migrants are again moving through Central America and Mexico.

The AP notes, “After a year of pandemic-induced paralysis, those in daily contact with migrants believe the flow north could return to the high levels seen in late 2018 and early 2019. The difference is that it would happen during a pandemic.”

With Democrats holding narrow majorities in both chambers, Politico said Thursday the bill has “bleak odds” of passing. It needs unanimous Democrat support and at least 10 GOP votes.

Several top Republicans already denounced the bill’s core provisions, including Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio, who backed the 2013 Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Rubio signaled he wouldn’t support the proposed legislation, calling President Joe Biden’s proposal a “non-starter” last month.

On the Senate floor last month, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deemed it “blanket amnesty that would gut enforcement for American laws while creating huge new incentives for people to rush here illegally at the same time.”

The Center for Immigration Studies called it “a radical departure from previous immigration measures, which at least pretended to care about enforcement.”

The White House has not said whether Biden would push the bill through reconciliation, which allows fiscal legislation to pass by simple majority.

“We have compromised too much and capitulated too quickly to fringe voices who have refused to accept the humanity and contributions of immigrants to our country,” Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez, who introduced the bill, said.

The immigration bill comes in addition to a $2 trillion COVID relief package. Democrats have also begun talking about a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure bill to focus on “climate change.”

The effort must happen before March 12 — when lawmakers plan to depart Washington for Easter and Passover.