NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the highest ranking Latino in the Congress, and Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (Calif.-38)today introduced the bicameral U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, President Biden’s bold, inclusive, and humane framework for the future of the United States immigration system. Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (Calif.-19), Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.-40), Nydia Velázquez (N.Y.-07), Judy Chu (Calif.-27), Yvette Clark (N.Y.-09), Karen Bass (Calif.-37), and Raul Ruiz (Calif.-36) joined as chief cosponsors.
The legislation would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, including Dreamers, 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.
“As the son of Cuban immigrants who fled an oppressive regime for a better life in the United States, I have dedicated much of my career in Congress, both in the House and the Senate, fighting for the dignity of immigrant families in New Jersey and all across America. 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 Sen. Menendez. “We have an 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.”
“I am deeply proud to introduce the U.S. Citizenship Act in the House of Representative today, a vision that provides long-overdue permanent protections, and restores humanity and American values to our immigration system,” said Rep. Sánchez. “I am the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, this is personal to me. 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. After all, immigration reform isn’t just about policy changes and politics-as-usual, it’s about people: our loved ones, friends, and neighbors who have been living in our communities and contributing to our country for decades. They deserve real relief. With President Biden’s leadership and vision, Democratic majorities in both Chambers, and the support of the majority of Americans: this is our moment to finally deliver big, bold, and inclusive immigration reform that our nation and its people deserve.”
· 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.
“For too long, our immigration system has failed to live up to the ideals and principles our nation was founded on. We must enact bold, robust immigration reform that meets the urgency this moment demands — and that millions of hard working immigrants have earned,” said Sen. Padilla. “As the son of immigrants from Mexico, I am proud to join Senator Menendez and Congresswoman Sánchez in introducing this legislation to restore humanity to our immigration system and give everyone a fair shot at achieving the American dream.”
“From child separation to ending DACA, the policies of the previous administration shone a light on our broken immigration system and the tragic consequences of federal inaction. While President Biden has already taken important steps toward addressing the harm done to immigrant communities, only Congress can take permanent action to bring America’s immigration policies into the 21st century,” said Sen. Luján. “This long-awaited legislation keeps families together; helps America’s economy recover and rebuild; creates a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, including our Dreamers and farmworkers; modernizes border security and our ports of entry; and addresses the root causes of migration from the Northern Triangle region. I look forward to working alongside Senator Menendez and Congresswoman Sanchez to reform our immigration system.”
“We must center our nation’s immigration policy around our values. The U.S. Citizenship Act will help to reunite families, restore justice and humanity to our policies, and build an immigration system fit for a modern and growing United States,” said Sen. Hirono. “This bill rejects the cruel mindset and unjust immigration policies advanced by the previous administration. I look forward to working with the Biden administration and my colleagues to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
“To fix our broken immigration system, we must pass reforms that reflect America’s values,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “We cannot afford to shut out the world’s talent or drive away those who call our country home – especially immigrants who are now working as health care professionals and other front line employees, often in rural and underserved urban areas. This legislation will provide many immigrants, including DREAMers, with a path to citizenship and the opportunity to begin a new chapter here in the U.S.”
“For far too long our immigration system has betrayed our values— shattering communities, tearing families apart and forcing many immigrants, including Dreamers and undocumented immigrants, to live in fear,” said Sen. Booker. “We must urgently work to address the damage that has been done and build an immigration system that reflects our values. I am honored to introduce this critical legislation with my colleagues that will create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and Dreamers, keep families together, and ensure our immigration policies reflect our highest ideals and values as a nation.”
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.
“I applaud President Biden for delivering on his promise and sending to Congress a bold vision for immigration reform. There is a lot to like about this bill. It includes several pieces of legislation which I wrote. It would greatly benefit our country,” said Rep. Lofgren, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislative process to advance the bill through the House.”
“Today, we introduced President Biden’s U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021. This robust immigration reform bill is long overdue,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “Over my 28 years in Congress, I and the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have worked hard to reform our broken immigration system. This bill will help ensure that immigrants like those in my district who strengthen our economy and add so much value to our communities are treated with dignity and respect. It will reunite and keep families together and protect the millions of undocumented immigrants who contribute to our nation, including those serving in our armed forces and on the front lines battling the COVID-19 pandemic. I am thrilled that this legislation builds on the principles of my Dream and Promise Act and expedites a pathway to citizenship for all DACA-eligible youth, as well as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) recipients. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Biden Administration to pass the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 into law.”
“For too long, a broken immigration system has failed so many who come to America seeking a better life,” said Rep. Velázquez. “And over the last four years, xenophobia and hatred coming from the highest office in our land led to cruel policies like tearing children apart from their parents at the border. Well today we are here to turn the page on that dark chapter. To finally make headwinds in the decades-long battle for humane immigration reform. The U.S. Citizenship Act will provide enhanced pathways to citizenship, keep families together, grow our economy, and support asylum seekers.”
“I am proud to be supporting this long-needed comprehensive immigration reform bill. With today’s package of updates to our immigration laws, we are living up to the Biden-Harris Administration’s week one commitment to finally transform our broken immigration system,” said Rep. Chu. “I’m particularly pleased that after four years of Islamophobia masquerading as policy, this bill includes the NO BAN Act which will prevent future administrations from banning groups of people based on religion ever again. I also believe that our immigration laws should make it easier for families to stay together, which is better for immigrants and our country. That is why I’m so glad this package includes provisions from my bill, the Reuniting Families Act, to reduce employment and family-based visa backlogs and create a more inclusive definition of family members so more families can be together in a shorter time frame. Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that immigrants make up a significant portion of essential frontline workers in industries like healthcare and agriculture. But, despite how much we depend on immigrant workers, some unscrupulous employers seek to exploit them, making them work extreme hours in difficult and dangerous conditions. That is why the inclusion of my bill, the POWER Act, which protects immigrants who report unfair labor practices, is key to ensuring immigrants are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. This bill includes many more provisions that are essential to building a strong and healthy economy and humane immigration laws that are intended to help our country, not stoke xenophobia. As one The Closers, I know we can move this robust package to President Biden’s desk and I look forward to working with my colleagues to do just that.”
“I am the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and I am uniquely familiar with the need for comprehensive immigration reform. As Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, I have seen the glaring inequities, blatant racism, vicious xenophobia, and civil rights violations immigrants face — particularly in immigrant communities of African descent,” said Rep. Clarke. “Our immigration system is broken, and I will not relent until our immigration system reflects a modern and equitable approach to this issue. Reversing the policies of the last four years is not enough. We must reimagine the immigration system in a manner that is humane, just, and fair. This bill is the Biden-Harris Administration’s vision to fix our immigration system once and for all. The time has come for the values of our nation to be reflected in our immigration policies. I am proud to co-lead this paramount legislation.”
“Today, I’m proud to join my colleagues in taking decisive and robust action to reform our immigration system,” said Rep. Bass. Over the last four years we all witnessed horrific immigration policies resulting in thousands of children being removed from their parents, families held in cages, and refugees from as far away as Cameroon and countries in Western Africa forced to languish in Mexico because the US consistently violated international asylum laws. It is my hope that my colleagues will join in voting to pass this important piece of legislation – reforming our immigration system.”
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus applauds the U.S. Citizenship Act; it is the broad and bold immigration reform we need,” said CHC Chairman Ruiz. “For far too long, our country has suffered from a broken immigration system and it is past time that we fix it. The CHC is committed to passing immigration reform that will provide many essential and taxpaying immigrants an earned pathway to citizenship and allow them to fully contribute to our society by keeping programs like Medicare and Social Security solvent and generating economic growth and productivity. Immigrants are the fabric of our nation; they feed America, care for our families, and help keep us safe. The U.S. Citizenship Act will restore dignity and humanity to our immigration system, prioritize keeping families together, and provide 21st Century solutions for border security. I’d like to thank CHC Members Senator Menendez and Congresswoman Sanchez for their leadership on this vital legislation. The CHC, along with the White House, is committed to unlocking opportunities for all Americans. This includes passing immigration reform once and for all.”
The Senate bill, led by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), is cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Sens. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Michael Bennett (D-Colo.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
The House bill, led by Congresswoman Linda Sánchez, is cosponsored by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.), Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-Texas), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Mike Levin (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), Albio Sires (D-N.J.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Gregorio Kilil Camacho Sablan (D-M.P.), Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-Mich.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Val B. Demings (D-Fla.), Al Green (D-Texas), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (D-Va.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), David Trone (D-Md.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.), Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.), Marc A. Veasey (D-Texas), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), and Stacey E. Plaskett (D-V.I.).
Click here for the Senate version of bill text of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.
Click here for the House version of bill text of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.
Click here (Access code: 5gL7&W#%) to access the full recording from today’s virtual press conference.