By: Cristina Perez, Esq.
It has been almost 35 years since President Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”). IRCA was the most impactful piece of legislation for immigrants and their families in nearly a century. In the years since, the system has become riddled with inefficiency and is in need of an overhaul. As the Biden Administration takes control, it will attempt to reform the immigration system once again.
On January 20, 2021, President Biden introduced an immigration bill (U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021), which seeks to “restore humanity and American Values to our immigration system,” and among other things, will potentially legalize the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
This sweeping immigration bill is expected to be met with much resistance and it is likely that several versions of the bill will be presented. For now, here are some highlights of the bill:
- Creates an eight (8) year path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented individuals who were living in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021. Undocumented individuals will be able to apply for temporary legal status, with the ability to apply for green cards after five (5) years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay taxes. If they qualify, they could apply for citizenship three (3) years later.
- Allows Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA” or “Dreamers”), Temporary Protected status holders (“TPS”), and immigrant farmworkers who meet specific requirements to immediately apply for a green card upon meeting specific requirements. If they qualify, they could apply for citizenship three (3) years later.
- Changes the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws.
- Reforms family and employment immigration by clearing visa backlogs, recapturing unused visas, eliminating lengthy wait times, and increasing or eliminating per-country visa caps.
- Eliminates the so called “3 and 10-year bars” and other provisions that keep families apart.
- Provides dependents of H-1B visa holders with work authorization.
- Creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development giving the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) the authority to adjust green cards based on macroeconomic conditions, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with U.S. workers.
- Increases the number of immigration judges and provides better training.
- Improves the employment verification process.
- Protects workers who are victims of workplace retaliation and increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws.
- Reinforces border resources by authorizing additional funding for the Secretary of DHS to develop and implement a plan to deploy technology to expedite screening and enhance the ability to identify narcotics and other contraband at every land, air, and sea port of entry. Authorizes the Secretary of DHS to develop and implement a strategy to manage and secure the southern border between ports of entry that focus on flexible solutions and technology that expand the ability to detect illicit activity and evaluate the effectiveness of border security operations.
- Manages border and protects border communities by providing funding for training and continuing education to promote agent and officer safety and professionalism and develops guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in Custom Border Patrol custody.
- Eliminates the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims and provides funding to reduce asylum application backlogs.
Leech Tishman will continue to monitor and keep clients informed of all changes affecting our immigration system and processes.
If you have any questions regarding professional visas or any immigration issue affecting an employer, please contact Cristina Perez. Cristina is a Partner in Leech Tishman’s Immigration and Employment & Labor Practice Groups. She is based in the firm’s Pasadena office and can be reached at 818.550.8300 or email@example.com.
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Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl is a full-service law firm dedicated to assisting individuals, businesses, and institutions. Leech Tishman offers legal services in alternative dispute resolution, aviation & aerospace, bankruptcy & creditors’ rights, cannabis, construction, corporate, data privacy & cybersecurity, employee benefits, employment, energy, environmental, estates & trusts, family law, government relations, immigration, insurance coverage, intellectual property, international legal matters, litigation, real estate, and taxation. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, Leech Tishman also has offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota and Wilmington, DE.