On Thursday, Democratic lawmakers in Congress, in coordination with the Biden administration, unveiled their immigration plan that includes laying out an eight-year path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S.
“Dreamers” (illegal aliens previously brought to the U.S. as children) and farmworkers, two of the top prioritized groups under the legislation, will reportedly receive an immediate path to citizenship or a “green card” which would allow them to work legally, as will tens of thousands of immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for years under Temporary Protection Status due to a disaster or war in their country.
In addition to the pathways to citizenship for many groups of undocumented people, the immigration plan also proposes the U.S. no longer use the term "illegal alien," but instead replace it with "undocumented non-citizen."
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), one of the lead drafters of the bill, said the move is an "economic and moral imperative."
"It's time to bring all 11 million undocumented out of the shadows," he said. "We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform that leaves no one behind, not our dreamers and TPS holders, not our farmworkers and meatpackers, not our essential workers, not our parents, friends, and neighbors."
He also added that many illegal aliens have been essential to our economy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They are essential workers - so essential that our economy would not function without them. Yet they live under constant fear," he said.
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Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), on the other hand, expressed concern over Democrats' aggressive immigration proposals.
“The way we’re doing it right now is catastrophic and is a recipe for disaster in the middle of a pandemic. Our party should be concerned. If we go off the rails, it’s going to be bad for us. Biden is going to be dealing with a minority in Congress if he continues down some of these paths," he said.
According to Politico, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) has also been apprehensive about Biden's immigration plans since before the election, maintaining that aggressively reversing former President Trump’s policies would lead to increased border crossings.
“I said hey, we don’t want the wall, but when it comes to the other issues we gotta be careful that we don't give the impression that we have open borders because otherwise the numbers are going to start going up. And surely enough, we’re starting to see numbers go up," Cuellar said.
Passing of the immigration plan will be difficult given Democrats' narrow control of Congress, but Sen. Menendez and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have said the bill may be pushed through in separate pieces.