Biden Will Announce Deportation Protection And Work Permits For Spouses Of Us Citizens

U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a working session with world leaders during a G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
U.S. President Joe Biden participates in a working session with world leaders during a G7 summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is planning to announce a sweeping new policy Tuesday that would lift the threat of deportation for hundreds 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.

The announcement will be a significant marker for Biden. He opened his presidency with promises to fight for widespread relief for the millions of immigrants who live in the country without permanent legal status. But as the number of migrants reached historic levels and he prepares for a reelection contest against Donald Trump, Biden earlier this month enacted a border clampdown that critics say is similar to those pursued by his predecessor.

The White House's decision earlier this month to implement a restrictive proposal that essentially halted asylum processing at the U.S.-Mexico border angered many of Biden's political allies.

However, Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., who chairs a Democratic group of lawmakers called the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said she expected the policy announcement Tuesday would cause “tears of joy paired with some sighs of relief” from the families of those who stand to benefit.

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

For some time, administration officials have been deliberating various options to offer protections for immigrants who lack legal status in the U.S. but have longstanding ties. The authority Biden is invoking 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.

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.

Still, Biden's use of the authority could come under legal challenge, just as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has faced. The White House on Tuesday afternoon is marking the 12th anniversary of that program, which was created by then-President Barack Obama to protect young immigrants who lacked legal status, often known as “dreamers.”

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.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., called Biden's action “justice” that “was long overdue for the people who have been waiting but are key to so many thriving families and communities.”

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, R-Texas, called it a “huge magnet” for would-be immigrants, saying it was “going to attract even more people” to the border.