WASHINGTON, D.C. February 18, 2021 – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) on Thursday joined a bicameral effort, led by Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-Calif-38),to introduce the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, President Biden’s bold, inclusive, and humane framework for the future of the United States immigration system. California is home to more immigrants than any other state—making the legislation a significant move for the state’s immigrant communities. Earlier this week, Padilla was announced as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety Subcommittee, the first Latino to hold the post.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic; prioritize family reunification and keeping families together; and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth. The bill would also equip the country to responsibly and effectively manage the border with smart and effective investments, address root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America, and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights.
“For too long, our immigration system has failed to live up to the ideals and principles our nation was founded on. We must enact bold, robust immigration reform that meets the urgency this moment demands — and that millions of hard-working immigrants have earned,” said Senator Padilla. “As the son of immigrants from Mexico, I am proud to join Senator Menendez and Congresswoman Sánchez in introducing thislegislation to restore humanity to our immigration system and give everyone a fair shot at achieving the American dream.”
· Creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing Dreamers, TPS holders, and some farmworkers with an expedited three-year path to citizenship, and giving all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with an eight-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.
· Reforms family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members, and increasing per-country caps for family-based immigration. It also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protections for orphans, widows and children, allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
· Grows our economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from U.S. universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, and giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
· Increases funding for immigrant integration initiatives and supports state and local governments, NGOs, and other community organizations that conduct inclusion programs, provide English language assistance, and make available naturalization resources to immigrant communities.
· Protects workers from exploitation and improves the employment verification process by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor to establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to help improve the employment verification process and granting workers who suffer serious labor violations greater access to U visa relief.
· Supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by eliminating the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, reducing asylum application backlogs, increasing protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.