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Biden fast tracks citizenship for immigrant spouses, children of Americans

U.S. President Joe Biden discusses the congressional stopgap government funding bill to avert an immediate government shutdown in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 1, 2023. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)

President Biden Tuesday unveiled an ambitious plan to fast-track permanent residency for immigrant spouses and children of American citizens.

In a sweeping election-year move that could affect more than 500,000 people, Biden is using executive action to allow immigrant family members to apply for permission to work and eventually for U.S. citizenship without returning to their home countries.

To qualify, immigrants must be in the U.S. at least 10 years and married to an American citizen as of Monday.

Biden planned to speak about the new effort at a Tuesday event at the White House.

He will also mark the 12th anniversary of DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a popular Obama-era directive that prevented the deportation of young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

“Families belong together. It’s that simple,” said Julie Chavez-Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager.

Trump’s campaign slammed the move as a brazen political move to win votes of immigrants.

“Biden only cares about one thing — power — and that’s why he is giving mass amnesty and citizenship to hundreds of thousands of (undocumented immigrants) who he knows will ultimately vote for him,” said campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt

As well as providing a boost to hundreds thousands of families, Biden hopes to show skeptical Latino voters and advocates for immigrants that he has their back following his announcement of an aggressive restrictive action on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Biden and Democrats are seeking to counter the harsh rhetoric and proposals from former President Trump, who has vowed a wide-ranging crackdown on undocumented immigrants including mass deportations if he wins a return to the White House.

The White House says the new policy, which it says does not require congressional approval, would expand on authority used by previous presidents to allow “parole in place” for family members of U.S. military service members.

The so-called parole-in-place process allows qualifying immigrants to get on the path to U.S. permanent residency without leaving the country, a common barrier for those without legal status but married to Americans.

The announcement comes two weeks after Biden unveiled a sweeping executive action effectively halted asylum claims for those arriving between officially designated ports of entry unless the numbers of border crossings declines to manageable numbers.

Immigrant-rights groups have sued the Biden administration over the crackdown, but polls say it is popular and the White House says early signs show it may be reducing border crossings.

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