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February 22, 2021

President Biden, Congressional Democrats Introduce Immigration Bill

On February 18, President Joe Biden sent legislation to Congress that would make significant changes to the U.S. immigration system. The bill will be sponsored in the U.S. House by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) and in the Senate by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

White House officials called the bill a chance to “reset and restart conversations on immigration reform,” labeling the bill as President Biden’s “vision of what it takes to fix the system.”

If enacted into law, the legislation would:

  • Provide a path to citizenship for approximately 11 million undocumented workers who currently reside in the United States;
  • Improve the employment verification process;
  • Increase the number of employment-based visas from 140,000 to 170,000 by eliminating per-country caps;
  • Make it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from U.S. universities to stay in the country, give dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and prevent children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system;
  • Improve access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries;
  • Create a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development;
  • Incentivize higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers;
  • Increase family-based visa options by raising the country caps that limit how many people can come to the United States from each country;
  • Increase the number of diversity visas, a program that provides visas to individuals from nations that traditionally have had low levels of immigration to the United States, from 55,000 to 80,000;
  • Enhance funding for immigrant integration initiatives and support organizations that conduct inclusion programs, provide English language assistance, and make available naturalization resources to immigrant communities; and
  • Triple the number of visas available to those who have been the victim of certain crimes including domestic violence, increasing the number from 10,000 to 30,000.

Click here for additional details. If the bill passes – which is far from certain given the close partisan divide in Congress – it would be the first major immigration bill approved by Congress since 1996.