July 11, 2024

Biden Shields Illegal Immigrants Married to US Citizens from Deportation

Image Credits: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Biden’s New Policy Announcement
On June 18, President Joe Biden declared that his administration would not deport many illegal immigrants married to U.S. citizens. This groundbreaking decision aims to keep families together and streamline the process for those seeking legal status.

Program Details and Scope
The new program allows illegal immigrant adults married to U.S. citizens to remain in the United States while applying for legal status. To qualify, spouses must have resided in the country for at least ten years as of June 17. The White House estimates that around 500,000 spouses of U.S. citizens will benefit from this protection, alongside about 50,000 children with at least one parent married to a U.S. citizen.

President Biden’s Justification
“There’s already a system for the people we’re talking about today. But the process is cumbersome, risky, and separates families,” President Biden stated at the White House event announcing the policy. Traditionally, illegal immigrants must leave the U.S. to obtain legal status, leaving their families behind with no guarantee of return. “So they stay in America, but in the shadows, living in constant fear of deportation without the ability to legally work,” he added.

A Common-Sense Fix
President Biden described the new program as a “common sense fix” to a longstanding problem. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will manage the initiative. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas highlighted its multifaceted benefits: “This process will achieve family unity, one of our immigration system’s fundamental goals. It will also boost our economy, advance our labor interests, strengthen our foreign relations with key regional partners, further our public safety interests, and more.”

Historical Context and Comparisons to DACA
The announcement coincided with the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which protects illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children from deportation and allows them to work legally. As of September 2023, DACA had shielded 544,690 individuals.

The Surge in Illegal Immigration
Illegal immigration has surged under President Biden, with 2.4 million encounters at the U.S.–Mexico border in 2023 alone. On June 4, Biden signed an order suspending asylum requests once daily encounters exceeded 2,500. During that announcement, he hinted at additional actions to aid illegal immigrants: “In the weeks ahead—and I mean the weeks ahead—I will speak to how we can make our immigration system fairer and more just.”

Program Eligibility and Impact
The program targets individuals deeply embedded in communities nationwide, with eligible participants residing in the U.S. for an average of 23 years. The president also mentioned efforts to facilitate work visas for illegal immigrants protected under DACA who have earned a college degree and received U.S. job offers.

Public and Political Reactions
The announcement has garnered both praise and criticism. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas) celebrated the policy: “An estimated 55,000 immigrants in the Houston area are married to U.S. citizens, and many of them will now be able to live, work, and raise a family without the fear of deportation.” Conversely, former Trump adviser Stephen Miller denounced it as an “unconstitutional amnesty to illegal aliens,” and Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt warned it would lead to increased crime and incentivize more illegal immigration.

President Biden’s bold move represents a significant shift in U.S. immigration policy, reflecting his administration’s focus on family unity and economic integration while sparking a heated debate on its broader implications.

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