by Anna Giaritelli, Homeland Security Reporter | January 20, 2021
A Senate Republican who was involved in bipartisan negotiations on a 2013 immigration reform bill refused to consider President Biden’s legislation.
“America should always welcome immigrants who want to become Americans,” Florida’s Marco Rubio said in a statement issued late Tuesday. “But we need laws that decide who and how many people can come here, and those laws must be followed and enforced. There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them.”
Rubio was a member of the Gang of Eight who in 2013 wrote the first draft of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, a comprehensive bill dealing with various aspects of immigration. The bill passed the Senate in a 68-32 vote, but then-House Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it up for a vote.
Biden sent Congress a bill on Wednesday that proposes significant changes to immigration policy, including a pathway to citizenship for millions of people who are illegally residing in the United States. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 focuses on three aspects of immigration and migration: providing a pathway to citizenship for approximately 11 million illegal immigrants and enhancing labor protections for workers, resolving root causes that have prompted millions of Central Americans to flee to the U.S. in the past decade, and putting into place “smart” border controls.
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Illegal immigrants may apply for temporary legal status, which allows them the legal ability to be present and work in the U.S. and then apply for a green card after five years. Applicants must undergo a background and criminal check and have paid taxes in order to gain a green card or permanent legal residency status. Immigrants within legal programs that protect them from deportation, including the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, will not have to wait five years to apply for green cards.
The word “alien,” used in U.S. laws to describe someone who is not a U.S. citizen, will be changed in all laws to “noncitizen.” Alien is a word that immigration restrictionists often use, while undocumented or unauthorized immigrants are more liberal terms.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was an original author of the 2013 bill and, as the top Senate official as of Wednesday, is positioned to be the leading force in moving Biden’s bill.