Biden to waive penalties for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens

biden to waive penalties for undocumented spouses of u.s. citizens

Biden to waive penalties for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens

President Biden on Tuesday will announce a policy to clear the way for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens to apply for legal residency in one of the most expansive immigration programs of his presidency, according to two federal sources with knowledge of the plans.

The policy shift is a bold move for the Democratic president months before the November elections, and a rebuke to congressional Republicans who have ignored his calls to expand border security and to create a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States, many for decades.

Biden will unveil the policies at a celebration at the White House to mark the 12-year anniversary of another executive action taken to aid immigrants when he was vice president. In 2012, President Barack Obama said he would allow undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to apply for work permits, a program that transformed hundreds of thousands of lives.

The White House had no immediate comment on Tuesday’s announcement.

Marrying an American citizen is typically a fast track to U.S. citizenship, but immigrants who cross the border illegally are subject to significant bureaucratic hurdles that have compelled them to remain in limbo for years. Federal law requires such immigrants to leave the United States for up to 10 years and then apply to return, but immigrants call the penalty excessive.

Biden will allow undocumented spouses to apply for legal residency without having to leave the United States, a major relief for those who have jobs and are raising young children and worry that there is no guarantee they will be allowed back into the country.

“It’s just too much risk for me to leave my wife, my son and everything we’ve established in the United States,” said Foday Turay, a 27-year-old immigrant from Sierra Leone who is among those invited to Biden’s announcement at the White House.

Turay crossed the Mexican border unlawfully in 2003 when he was 7 to join his mother, who had earlier fled that country’s war. He is now an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and has a work permit through Obama’s 2012 program. But he said he wants to become a citizen.

About 500,000 undocumented spouses and 50,000 undocumented stepchildren of the U.S. citizens are expected to be eligible to apply, federal officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the broad strokes of the proposal.

Biden is also expected to announce a work-visa program for current enrollees in Obama’s 2012 program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and others who were shut out of the program after the Trump administration called it an illegal amnesty and tried to terminate it in 2017.

A federal judge in Texas has ruled that DACA is unlawful, and it is limited to existing enrollees while the case is pending. Biden will allow some Dreamers to apply for work visas, which will put them on a more solid legal footing than the deferred-action program, the officials said.

Details for both programs are still being worked out and are expected to be made public over the summer, officials said.

Anyone who applies is expected to pass criminal background checks and meet other requirements, in keeping with standard immigration procedures.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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