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Biden Will Announce Deportation Protection and Work Permits for Spouses of US Citizens
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
June 17, 2024

President Biden's new policy aims to protect immigrant spouses of US citizens from deportation. (AP/Andrew Medichini)

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is planning to announce a sweeping new policy Tuesday that would lift the threat of deportation for tens of thousands of people married to U.S. citizens, an aggressive election-year action on immigration that had been sought by many Democrats.

Biden will announce the new program at a White House event to celebrate the Obama-era “dreamers” directive that offered deportation protections for young undocumented immigrants, according to three people briefed on the White House plans.

The policy will allow roughly 490,000 spouses of U.S. citizens an opportunity to apply for a “parole in place” program, which would shield them from deportations and offer them work permits if they have lived in the country for at least 10 years, according to two of the people briefed. They all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the announcement publicly.

The White House on Monday declined to comment on the announcement.

Families who would potentially benefit from Biden’s actions were expected to attend the White House event Tuesday afternoon.

Longstanding Ties and Legal Barriers

For some time, administration officials have been deliberating various options to offer protections for immigrants who lack legal status in the U.S. but who have longstanding ties — even after the White House crafted a restrictive proposal that essentially halted asylum processing at the U.S-Mexico border.

Biden is invoking an authority that not only gives deportation protections and work permits, but removes a legal barrier to allow qualifying immigrants to apply for permanent residency and eventually, U.S. citizenship. It’s a power that’s already been used for other categories of immigrants, such as members of the U.S. military or their family members who lack legal status.

“Today, I have spoken about what we need to do to secure the border,” Biden said at a June 4 event at the White House, when he rolled out his order to suspend asylum processing for many migrants arriving now to the U.S. “In the weeks ahead — and I mean the weeks ahead — I will speak to how we can make our immigration system more fair and more just.”

Biden was also expected to announce a policy of making recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program eligible for visas, rather than the temporary work authorization they currently receive, according to two of the people briefed.

Reception and Criticism

Immigration advocates praised the policy expected to benefit the spouses of U.S. citizens, saying on a conference call Monday that it is often impossible for the spouses to gain legal status even though they have deep ties in the country.

“This is a defining moment in history, and we need to meet this moment,” said Ashley DeAzevedo, the president of American Families United, which advocates for U.S. citizens married to foreign nationals.

Biden has come under political pressure to show he can gain control of the U.S. border with Mexico, which at times has been defined by historic levels of immigration during his four years in the White House. As he prepares for a reelection contest against Donald Trump, Biden earlier this month enacted plans earlier for significant restrictions on migrants seeking asylum at the southern border.

That decision was met with criticism by immigration advocates as well as Democratic lawmakers, particularly groups that represent progressive and Hispanic lawmakers.

In recent weeks, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called on Biden to act to shield the spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation as well as to consider a policy making work visas available to graduates of U.S. colleges who came to the country without authorization as children.

Biden’s announcement was expected to receive a warm reception from Democrats, and several House lawmakers were traveling back to Washington for the announcement.

Advocates also argued that the policy made political sense for Biden.

“We anticipate that immigrant and Latino voters will express their gratitude at the ballot box in November,” said Gustavo Torres, the president of CASA in Action.

Trump, meanwhile, has said he will deport millions of migrants across the country if he’s reelected, doubling down on anti-immigration rhetoric that fueled his previous rise to power.

Biden’s policy would only apply to longtime U.S. residents, but Republicans were nonetheless critical. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, called it a “huge magnet” for would-be immigrants, saying it was “going to attract even more people” to the border.

The White House on Tuesday afternoon is marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which was created by then-President Barack Obama to protect young immigrants who lacked legal status, often known as “dreamers.”

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