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Biden grants legal protections to undocumented spouses of US citizens

Biden grants legal protections to undocumented spouses of US citizens
Biden grants legal protections to undocumented spouses of US citizens


President Biden on Tuesday announced sweeping new protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have lived in the United States illegally for years but are married to American citizens.

Under the new policy, some 500,000 undocumented spouses will be protected from deportation and have access to citizenship and the opportunity to work legally in the United States. It is one of the most sweeping presidential actions to protect immigrants in more than a decade.

Mr. Biden will celebrate the program at a White House ceremony on Tuesday marking the 12th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which protects from deportation people who arrived in the United States while They were children.

The move comes as Mr. Biden attempts to strike a balance on one of the most dominant policy issues in 2024. Aware that many Americans want tougher policies at the border, Mr. Biden announced just ago two weeks into a crackdown that suspended long-standing guarantees that gave anyone who enters U.S. soil the right to seek asylum here.

Mr. Biden is also expected to detail separate actions on Tuesday that will make it easier for undocumented young people, many of whom are known as Dreamers, to access work visas.

Almost immediately after issuing the order to suspend asylum at the border, White House officials began privately reassuring progressives that the president would also help undocumented immigrants who had been in the country for years, according to people close to the conversations, who spoke on the site. condition of anonymity to describe private discussions.

Tuesday's decision could help Mr. Biden deal with some of the backlash his asylum restrictions have generated among members of his progressive base, who have accused the White House of betraying his campaign promises to enact a more humane approach towards immigrants.

New benefits for undocumented spouses will not take effect immediately; Senior Biden administration officials have said they expect the program to be launched by the end of the summer. Eligible people will then be able to apply for the benefits.

Marrying a U.S. citizen usually opens the door to U.S. citizenship. But people who crossed the southern border illegally rather than arriving in the country on a visa must return to their home country to complete the process of obtaining a green card.

This means long separations from their spouse and family. The new program allows families to stay in the country while they seek legal status.

There are about 1.1 million undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens in the United States, according to, an immigration advocacy group, but not all are eligible for the program.

To be eligible, spouses must have lived in the United States for 10 years and be married to an American citizen as of June 17. They cannot have a criminal record. The benefits would also extend to the estimated 50,000 children of undocumented spouses who became the stepchildren of U.S. citizens.

The latest policy could help Mr. Biden in swing states like Nevada, Arizona and Georgia, where more than 100,000 voters in each of those states live in mixed-status households, according to the American Business Immigration Coalition. which represents hundreds of businesses and supports the proposed policy change.

It's the right thing to do, and it's the smart thing to do, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat of Nevada, wrote in an opinion essay for Univision this week. She said protecting undocumented spouses would boost her state's economy.

The road to the White House runs through Nevada, and people in my state are paying attention, she wrote.

Mr. Biden is relying on a program known as parole, which has been used for other populations, such as military families. This status gives noncitizens the opportunity to temporarily live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.

In the days leading up to the announcement, some allies of former President Donald J. Trump took advantage of the policy to accuse Mr. Biden of being weak on border security. This is an attack on democracy, Stephen Miller, the architect of Mr. Trump's anti-immigration policy, said on social media on Monday.

One person who could be directly affected by this change is Ashley DeAzevedo, director of American Families United, whose husband is undocumented. Her group supports mixed-status families like hers. The couple have been married for over a decade and have an 11-year-old child.

It would absolutely be a game-changer to not have to worry about being separated, because right now he could technically be sent back, she said. There's always a worry if he gets arrested or something like that. It could be, you know, catastrophic for our family.

While some Democrats applauded Mr. Biden's new policy for undocumented spouses, many immigration advocates remain concerned about the lifespan of the original program that the White House will celebrate on Tuesday.

Since President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012, it has benefited hundreds of thousands of young adults, allowing them to get jobs and live without fear of deportation.

But DACA has been closed to new applicants since 2017, when Mr. Trump tried to end the program. It remains mired in litigation and its long-term survival remains in question, even though it has been revived for existing beneficiaries. DACA participants are now on average in their 30s.

Recipients who were once children fearful of having their parents deported are now parents afraid of being deported, said Bruna Bouhid-Sollod, senior policy director at United We Dream Action, an advocacy group for DACA recipients.

Mr. Biden appeared determined to address these fears with an upcoming policy that would smooth the process for Dreamers to be sponsored for a work visa by their employer and ease the path to an eventual green card. The administration is expected to issue guidance in the coming days that will benefit both current DACA recipients and others who have been excluded from the program since Mr. Trump took office.

It was a big fear of mine that DACA might end, said Monica Sandoval, 32, an emergency room nurse from Columbus, Indiana, who signed up for the program immediately after its unveiling.

Ms. Sandoval is renewed every two years, which allows her to keep her job and her nursing license.

She hoped the new process would allow her employer, a regional hospital, to sponsor her for a work visa and then a green card.

It would change my life, said Ms. Sandoval, who was brought to the United States at age 12 and is the mother of two young children. This would provide security for me and my children, and I would know for sure that I could continue to do the work I love to do.




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