Weekly Immigration Round-Up: Massive Immigration Reform Bill Goes to Congress; Law Enforcement Officials Support New Jersey Sanctuary City Law
President, Democrats Present Immigration Reform Bill
On Thursday, President Biden and Congressional Democrats released a long-awaited, sweeping bill to provide immigration reform in the United States. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez will introduce the bill to the U.S. Senate.
The bill will affect millions of individuals, both those currently in the United States and those looking to immigrate to the United States in the future. Key features include the following:
- A two-tier pathway to Permanent Residency
- Immediately provide legal permanent residency – a “green card” – to undocumented individuals who entered the United States as children, holders of Temporary Protected Status, and farmworkers; they could apply for citizenship three years after obtaining their green card
- All other undocumented individuals in the United States prior to January 1, 2021, who pass background checks; these individuals would receive employment authorization and relief from deportation, and they would become eligible for U.S. citizenship in eight years
- Spouses and children of permanent residents would not be subject to per-country visa caps, permitting faster immigration to the United States
- An increase in the number of visas available per year for victims of crime who assist law enforcement from 10,000 to 30,000
- Elimination of the requirement to file for asylum within one year of arriving in the United States in order to receive refugee status
- Establishment of processing centers in Central America to facilitate the refugee application process
- An increase in the number of employment-based and diversity green cards available each year
- Institution of better border security technology
- An end to the three- and ten-year bans on re-entry into the United States for individuals who left the country after having been in the United States for more than 6 months or one year, respectively, without authorization
If implemented, this bill would unquestionably create the most fundamental changes in immigration law in decades, but passage is by no means guaranteed. Due to Senate rules, the bill would need not only the support of all 50 Democratic senators but also of ten Republican senators, to pass. We will continue to monitor this bill as it moves through Congress.
Law Enforcement Backs New Jersey Sanctuary City Laws
Over 70 former and current chiefs of police departments, district attorneys, and other law enforcement officials have entered their support for the New Jersey “sanctuary city” directive, which restricts local police departments’ cooperation with federal immigration officials and reporting of suspected immigration violations. The directive has been challenged in federal court by the counties of Cape May and Ocean.
In a jointly-filed brief, these officials stated that law enforcement efforts “are undermined when undocumented immigrants and their communities fear interacting with law enforcement and the justice system,” leaving “undocumented immigrants more vulnerable to crime and exploitation, and undocumented immigrant victims less likely to come forward or cooperate with investigations and prosecutions.”
The U.S. Department of Justice under former President Trump supported efforts to reduce or eliminate sanctuary city directives. President Biden has moved to reduce the overall number of deportations from the United States, although he has not indicated whether he will support sanctuary laws across the country, including in New Jersey.