Democrats on Thursday formally introduced President Joe Biden's sweeping immigration bill in Congress - a measure that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for an estimated 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, but the proposal faces long odds to passage.
Senator Robert Menendez, a lead sponsor of the bill, said at a virtual conference on Thursday that millions of Americans supported lasting immigration reform.
SEN. MENENDEZ: “We're here today because last November 80 million Americans voted against Donald Trump and against everything he stood for. They voted to restore common sense, compassion and competence in our government and part of that mandate is fixing our immigration system…”
The bill – which is called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and is expected to be hundreds of pages long - would greatly increase both family-based and employment-based legal immigration and it would allow certain previously deported immigrants to apply to return to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons.
The crux of the measure provides an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of people who were living in the United States unlawfully on Jan. 1, 2021.
After passing background checks and paying taxes, they would be allowed to live and work in the United States for five years, apply for a green card and then after three years they could apply for citizenship.
DACA recipients and people with Temporary Protected Status would immediately be eligible to apply for a green card and would have a three-year path to citizenship.
The bill however has not received public support from Republicans, making it unlikely that it will be enacted. Democrats – who hold a majority in the House of Representatives, but are split 50-50 in the Senate - would need to win over 10 Senate Republicans to avoid a "filibuster," a procedural hurdle that can delay or block legislation from coming to a vote.
Democrats are simultaneously pushing ahead with several smaller-scale immigration bills.