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Democrats hail Biden immigration moves that Trump brands ‘amnesty’

Steps include easier work visas for DACA recipients with college degrees

President Joe Biden announces policies Tuesday that will provide protections for undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens, allowing them to obtain work authorization and streamline their path to citizenship.
President Joe Biden announces policies Tuesday that will provide protections for undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens, allowing them to obtain work authorization and streamline their path to citizenship. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a new program aimed at helping some migrant families stay together by allowing noncitizen spouses and children to apply for lawful permanent residency without leaving the country — and Donald Trump and other top Republicans already are crying foul.

The administration also said some recipients of deferred action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other so-called Dreamers would be able to more swiftly get work visas if they have earned a college degree at an accredited U.S. institution and received an offer of employment from a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree.

“Today’s a good day,” a smiling Biden said to applause during an afternoon event in the East Room of the White House to announce his moves. Those who will be eligible for the spouse and children program would have “been living in the United States for at least 10 years. These couples have been raising families, sending their kids to church and school, and paying taxes. They have contributed to our country for over 10 years or more.”

Still, he described those individuals as living under a cloud of “fear and uncertainty,” adding: “We can fix that. And that’s what I’m going to do today.”

The White House estimates the new program could impact 500,000 noncitizen spouses, who on average have been inside the United States for 23 years. It also could affect up to 50,000 noncitizen children. During a briefing Tuesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre sidestepped a question about whether federal entities could handle a spike in applications. “We believe this can move forward,” she said.

About the program for work visa-seeking college graduates, Biden said: “Those who have been educated in U.S. colleges and universities should put their skills and knowledge to work here in America. We want to keep building the strongest economy in the world, with the best workforce in the world.”

The new process is expected to be implemented “later this summer,” Biden said.

A fact sheet released by the administration said the moves would “facilitate the employment visa process for those who have graduated from college and have a high-skilled job offer, including DACA recipients and other Dreamers.”

The action comes after Biden was criticized by some Democrats for issuing an order on June 4 that would limit migrants’ asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border and allow immigration officials to swiftly deport individuals who illegally enter the United States. Republicans called the move too little, too late, or said it was motivated solely by election year politics.

Jean-Pierre said Tuesday the new action should not be assessed as a counterweight to the June 4 action. “We’re trying to deal with a broad stroke of issues here,” she said, not ruling out additional executive moves.

‘Last-ditch attempt’

Advocates for immigrant families were already praising the White House’s plans ahead of an event at the White House on Tuesday.

“Immigrant spouses & children of U.S. citizens & Dreamers contribute to our economy & communities & enrich our culture. America is home. They deserve to be here and live their American Dream,” Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Through his actions, President Biden is helping half a million non-citizen spouses and step-children of Americans to remain with their families, including many from Asia and the Pacific Islands who have lived here for years. Easing visa processes for Dreamers will cut red tape and allow young people to secure a job of their choice and contribute to our communities and economy,” Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement.

Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia, D-Texas, said in a statement that with the move, the administration “reaffirms its commitment to the immigrant community.”

“An estimated 55,000 immigrants in the Houston area are married to U.S. citizens and many of them will now be able to live, work and raise a family without the fear of deportation,” she said. “Additionally, providing work opportunities to some of the 270,000 Texans who are undocumented Dreamers and considered high-skilled workers will be a huge step forward.”

Lanae Erickson, vice president for social policy, education and politics at the center-left Third Way think tank said in a statement that “the folks who will be eligible to apply for this relief have been in this country for decades, working hard, contributing to their communities, and caring for their families. It makes no sense to upend their lives and send them back to a country they barely know.”

Republican critics, however, blasted the move even before the White House formally announced it.

“Biden is preparing to give MASS AMNESTY to hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens! This is unsustainable and can’t be allowed to continue! On day one, we will SHUT DOWN THE BORDER and start deporting millions of Biden’s Illegal Criminals,” Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, wrote Monday on his social media site. “We will once again put AMERICANS First and MAKE AMERICA SAFE AGAIN!”

A top Trump surrogate added more.

“Biden’s mass amnesty plan will undoubtedly lead to a greater surge in migrant crime, cost taxpayers millions of dollars they cannot afford, overwhelm public services, and steal Social Security and Medicare benefits from American seniors to fund benefits for illegals — draining the programs Americans paid into their entire working lives,” Trump campaign national press secretary Karoline Leavitt said in a Tuesday statement.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a Judiciary Committee member and candidate for Senate Republican leader in the next Congress, accused Biden of playing election year politics.

“This is what the Border Patrol calls a pull factor. It’s like a magnet, attracting people into the United States who know that if they wait long enough, President Biden will find some way to allow them to stay in the United States, even though they circumvent legal means of coming into the country,” Cornyn said in a statement.

“Now, I don’t think anybody is fooled by President Biden’s sudden interest in what’s happening at the southern border,” Cornyn added. “This is a last-ditch attempt to turn down the heat on the border crisis in the lead up to the election, and the American people aren’t buying it.”

Biden accused Trump of trying to “play on” migrants’ fears, adding his expected general election foe is solely interested in “playing politics” while Biden is focused on “fixing” the immigration system.

Among the Democratic lawmakers and officials standing on the stage behind Biden were Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as well as Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

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