Modeled Off of President Biden’s Bold Plan, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 Restores Fairness and Humanity to System, Strengthens Families, Boosts Our Economy, Bolsters National Security, and Opens Pathway to Citizenship for Millions
Denver – Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and John Hickenlooper (D) joined their Senate colleagues and dozens of members of the U.S. House of Representatives to introduce the bicameral U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. The comprehensive immigration reform bill is modeled after President Joe Biden’s bold, inclusive, and humane framework for the future of the United States immigration system.
The legislation would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic; prioritize family reunification and keeping families together; and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth. The bill would also equip the country to responsibly and effectively manage the border with smart and effective investments, address root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America, and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights.
“During my time as superintendent of Denver Public Schools, I saw how our broken immigration system failed kids living in the shadows. Since joining the Senate, I’ve been fighting for comprehensive immigration reform for those kids and all of our immigrant families across the country,” said Bennet. “Fixing our immigration system will benefit our economy, increase our global competitiveness, and help millions of hardworking immigrants and their families fully embrace building a life in America. I’m proud to support this legislation and hope we can finally get comprehensive immigration reform over the finish line.”
“For decades our broken immigration system has stifled our economy, undermined our security, and violated our country’s proud heritage as a nation of immigrants. We’ve seen this failed system play out in particularly horrific fashion over the last four years as families were ripped apart and children were housed in cages,” said Hickenlooper. “Today’s bill represents a comprehensive approach to tackling this challenge once and for all, including a much-needed, fair path to citizenship along with smart investments to effectively and responsibly manage our borders. It signals a new day in aligning our national values with our immigration policy.”
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 establishes a moral and economic imperative and a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive:
- Creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing Dreamers, TPS holders, and some farmworkers 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.
- 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, and increasing per-country caps for family-based immigration. It also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protections for orphans, widows and children, allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
- Grows our economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from U.S. universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, and giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
- Increases funding for immigrant integration initiatives and supports state and local governments, NGOs, and other community organizations that conduct inclusion programs, provide English language assistance, and make available naturalization resources to immigrant communities.
- Protects workers from exploitation and improves the employment verification process by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor to establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to help improve the employment verification process and granting workers who suffer serious labor violations greater access to U visa relief.
- Supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by eliminating the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, reducing asylum application backlogs, increasing protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 also addresses the root causes of migration and prioritizes U.S. national security:
- Addresses the root causes of migration from Central America by funding the President’s four-year plan to increase assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras conditioned on their ability to reduce the corruption, violence, poverty, and famine that now causes people to flee.
- Creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection, so they can apply for legal status in Central America instead of making the dangerous journey north. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.
- Cracks down on bad actors by enhancing the ability to prosecute individuals involved in smuggling, narcotics and trafficking networks who are responsible for drugs flowing into our country and the exploitation of migrants. It will also expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.
- Improves the immigration courts and protects vulnerable individuals by expanding family case management programs, reducing immigration court backlogs, expanding training for immigration judges, and improving technology for immigration courts. It also restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals, and also gives funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children.
- Modernizes and manages the border effectively through the use of technology that enhances our ability to detect contraband and counter transnational criminal networks since illicit drugs are most likely to be smuggled through legal ports of entry. It also authorizes and provides funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry to enhance the ability to process asylum seekers and detect, interdict, disrupt and prevent narcotics from entering the United States.
- Protects border communities by providing for additional rescue beacons to prevent needless deaths along the border, requiring agent training and oversight to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requiring department-wide policies governing the use of force. It also authorizes and provides funding for DHS, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and nongovernmental experts, to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.
The bill text is available HERE.