Biden announces new policy shielding undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation

The action would shield about 500,000 immigrants living in the U.S. from deportation. “This is the biggest thing since DACA,” an immigration advocate said.

The Biden administration is taking executive action to protect undocumented spouses of American citizens — a move that would shield about 500,000 immigrants from deportation.

The White House announced the election-year policy Tuesday, framing it as “new action to keep families together.” NBC News reported that an executive action protecting the spouses was likely to be announced soon, after urging from immigration advocates and Democratic lawmakers and as President Joe Biden courts Latino voters in crucial battleground states.

Lawmakers have been briefed on the plan and at least some have been invited to the White House for the announcement, sources said.

“This is the biggest thing since DACA,” said a source familiar with the matter, an immigration advocate, adding that it was a smart political move by the Biden administration.

Foreshadowing the likely battles to come over the policy, the White House was keen to stress that it has been tough on unlawful border crossings and has worked to dismantle people-smuggling networks.

Biden “believes that securing the border is essential,” it said in a press release outlining the new action Tuesday.

“He also believes in expanding lawful pathways and keeping families together, and that immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, paying taxes and contributing to their communities, are part of the social fabric of our country,” the statement said.

Biden to take executive action to protect undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens

The action aims to provide a “significant benefit to the country” by allowing non-citizens who have been in the country for at least 10 years and are married to a U.S. citizen, and their children, to apply for permanent residence without leaving the country.

The statement added that the spouses eligible to apply for this have been in the U.S. for 23 years on average.

The program would also make it easier for some undocumented immigrants to get a green card and a path to U.S. citizenship.

Sources also say that the undocumented spouses would be allowed to obtain work permits on a case-by-case basis.

The action includes plans to allow DACA recipients who earned degrees in higher education and are seeking a job in that same field to more quickly receive work visas.

The moves are expected to be challenged in court.

Noting the likelihood of lawsuits, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement that the passage of legislation would be “the only action that will fully allow these deserving individuals to put down roots, start families, further their education, and continue contributing to our society without fear of deportation,” but he noted that would be unlikely given Republican opposition to previous immigration overhauls.

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