The United States is looking to transform immigration policies, Democrat Senator Bob Menendez and House of Representatives member Linda Sanchez introduced a legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants.
In the US Citizenship Act of 2021 Menendez proposes two tracks:
One for residents known as “Dreamers,” those with Temporary Protected Status and farmworkers. All of these could immediately apply for green cards and then citizenship three years later.
Other immigrants without legal status would become eligible to apply for a green card after five years and for citizenship in another three years if they pass background checks and pay taxes.
The bill tries to help children of those on H1-B professional employment visas who would have become ineligible for green cards if they reach 21 years before their parents qualify for immigration. They would be allowed to continue with H1-B visas.
Under current regulations, the children lose their right to remain in the US when they turn 21 years if their parents are still waiting for green cards.
Spouses of H1-B workers would also be allowed to work, a provision that former President Donald Trump tried to revoke.
The bill will try to fulfil President Joe Biden’s election promises on immigration.
The Menendez-Sanchez bill as it stands has a difficult path to enactments mainly because it would require at least ten Republicans to vote for it in the Senate to get the 60 votes needed to pass. Republicans oppose the bill mainly because while providing an amnesty for illegal immigrants it does not include strict measures to enforce immigration laws.
Acknowledging the difficulty in getting the bill through, Menendez said in January that he was under no “illusion” and “passing immigration reform through the Senate particularly is a Herculean task.”
Biden’s Spokesperson Jan Psaki said that the bill was a starting point and could be modified through bipartisan negotiations. “We are willing to have the conversations in the weeks ahead,” she said.
A way out of the Senate imbroglio would be to break it up and treat some elements of the bill as part of the budget, which would require only a simple majority under what is known as the reconciliation process.
Biden appeared to be open to the strategy.
The H-1B visa is mostly sought for Indian IT professionals, that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.