Biden executive action to protect 500K illegal immigrants from deportation

President Joe Biden issued new executive actions that could protect hundreds of thousands of people from deportation by allowing some undocumented spouses and children of US citizens to apply for legal permanent residency without leaving the country.

“Today, President Biden is announcing that the Department of Homeland Security will take action to ensure that American citizens with noncitizen spouses and children can keep their families together,” fact sheet released by the White House Tuesday states. “This new process will help some non-citizen spouses and children apply for legal permanent residence — a status for which they are already eligible — without leaving the country.”

To be eligible for protection, noncitizens must have lived in the United States for at least 10 years or more, be legally married to a U.S. citizen, and meet all legal requirements. According to the White House, those who are eligible for the process have lived in the United States for an average of 23 years.

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“These actions will promote family unity and strengthen our economy, providing an important benefit to the country and helping American citizens and their non-citizen family members stay together,” the White House statement said.

Applications will be approved on a case-by-case basis. Those accepted into the program will be given three years to apply for permanent residency, during which time they will be able to stay with their families and be eligible for work authorization.

The White House estimates that the act “will protect about half a million spouses of US citizens, and approximately 50,000 non-citizen children under the age of 21 whose parent is married to a US citizen.”

In addition, the announcement will allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients deportation protection for undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors who earned a degree from an accredited U.S. institution of higher education and received an offer of employment from a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree to receive work visas more quickly .

“Recognizing that it is in our national interest to ensure that individuals who are educated in the United States can use their skills and education to benefit our country, the Administration is taking action to facilitate the employment visa process for those who have graduated from college and have a highly qualified job offer, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers,” the statement read.

The new executive actions come just weeks after Biden issued executive actions to deny asylum to migrants who enter the United States illegally when border enforcement agencies are overwhelmed, while still allowing 2,500 people to enter the country each day, or more than 900,000 people each year.

Tuesday's announcement was met with praise from faith-based immigration resettlement agencies.

“We are encouraged to see that the Biden administration is protecting a vulnerable group of people who have called America home,” said Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Global Refuge, formerly known as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.

“This move will provide a sense of relief to the thousands of mixed immigration status families living in the shadows in this country who qualify. The emotional toll these families have experienced due to the uncertainty of their loved ones' ability to remain in this country must have been immeasurable.”

The administrative actions were criticized by Senate Republicans before the announcement. Republican Whip Sen. John Thune of South Dakota said the plan would increase “an incentive for people to come here illegally.”

“I'm sure they'll be challenged,” Thune said CNN.

Sen. Thom Tillis, RN.C., told the outlet that a better solution would be to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill, something Congress has failed to do for decades. Tillis was among several Republicans who voted against the bipartisan border security bill earlier this year. Republicans accused the bill of failing to solve the border crisis and encouraging illegal immigration.

Given that the move is expected to be challenged in court, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in statement that passing legislation is the only way to guarantee legal protections for eligible immigrants.

In the middle of a closely contested 2024 presidential election, public polling indicates that Americans largely disapprove of Biden's handling of illegal immigration and the border. The Real Clear Policy average of votes on the immigration issue conducted between May 15 and June 11 shows that Biden is 28 percentage points underwater.


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