Monday, July 22, 2024

Biden proposes citizenship for spouses of Americans ahead of presidential polls

US President Joe Biden reacts to questions from reporters during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, June 17, 2024. — Reuters
  • Biden faced record levels of migrant arrests at US-Mexico border.
  • New programme’s implementation will roll out in coming months.
  • “I’m interested in fixing it,” Biden says on immigration policies.

United States President Joe Biden has announced a plan to grant citizenship to hundreds of illegal immigrants married to US citizens, contrasting with Republican rival Donald Trump’s mass deportation plan.

According to Reuters, Biden, 81, crticised Trump for separating families at the US-Mexico border and using offensive language about illegal immigrants, claiming they were “poisoning the blood of our country”.

“It’s hard to believe it’s being said, but he’s actually saying these things out loud. And it’s outrageous,” Biden said during an event at the White House.

“I’m not interested in playing politics with the border or immigration. I’m interested in fixing it,” he added.

Despite resisting Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, Biden has faced record levels of migrant arrests at the US-Mexico border and in a tougher approach, he has barred most migrants from requesting asylum, mirroring Trump’s ban.

Biden’s planned legalisation programme for US citizens’ spouses could reinforce his campaign message of supporting a more humane immigration system.

What exactly is Biden proposing?

The new Biden programme will be open to an estimated 500,000 spouses who have lived in the US for at least 10 years as of June 17, officials said on Tuesday. Some 50,000 children under age 21 with a US-citizen parent also will be eligible.

The US already provides a path to citizenship for immigrants who are married to Americans and entered the country legally on a visa. But in most cases, those who enter illegally must first leave the US for years before being allowed to return legally.

The new programme will allow the spouses and their children to apply for permanent residence without traveling abroad, removing a potentially lengthy process and family separation.

The path to obtain permanent residence could take months or years. From there, they could apply for citizenship. People who have disqualifying criminal history would not be eligible.

The implementation will roll out in coming months and the majority of likely beneficiaries would be Mexicans, Biden officials said on a call with reporters.

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