Congress introduced sweeping an immigration bill on Thursday modeled from President Joe Biden’s plan and designed to give millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. an eight-year path to citizenship, in addition to providing those who illegally entered the country as children a quicker route to citizenship.
In their respective Congressional chambers, Democrats Sen. Bob Menendez and Rep. Linda Sanchez introduced a bill identical to Biden’s US Citizenship Act of 2021 unveiled by the White House on Jan. 20, NBC News reported.
The bill cuts the time to secure citizenship from 13 years to just eight. To be eligible, illegal immigrants would be required to have entered the country prior to January 1, 2021.
“We have an economic and moral imperative to pass big, bold and inclusive immigration reform,” Menendez told reporters on Thursday.
The bill would also remove the word “alien” from immigration laws, to be substituted with “noncitizen.” An official told CNN the change would be implemented “to better reflect the President’s values on immigration.”
“Biden was in the Senate for 36 years, and he is the first to tell you the legislative process can look different on the other end than where it starts,” one administration official said, according to CNN, adding that the president is “willing to work with Congress.”
The legislation would prohibit specific categories of immigrants from being counted in annual limits, including spouses, partners and children under the age of 21 of lawful permanent residents.
More funding for immigration judges and increasing access to counsel are also included in the bill, in addition to eliminating the one-year limit for asylum case filings.
The ban on reentering the United States after previously living in the country illegally would also be repealed.
The bill increases the number of “diversity visas” from 55,000 to 80,000. It also seeks to increase protections for immigrants who report labor violations and penalties for employers who consciously hire undocumented workers.
Through the legislation, $4 billion would be invested into implementing legal and safer pathways for migration by creating refugee processing in Central America.
“It will be developed in a bipartisan manner, first of all, but it also will require countries in the region to reaffirm a commitment to corruption, to invest their own resources and take action to reform their systems,” an administration official said.
With multiple stand-alone bills currently in Congress, administration officials said they are willing to work with the legislative branch, acknowledging that the best path forward for immigration will be determined by the House and the Senate.
“There’s things that I would deal by itself, but not at the expense of saying, ‘I’m never going to do the other.’ There is a reasonable path to citizenship,” Biden said at a CNN town hall Tuesday.
Still, passing the measure won’t be easy: Senate Democrats do not have the 60 Democratic votes needed to pass the bill without Republican support.