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Biden to speed up residency status for half a million migrants married to US citizens

Asylum-seeking migrants line up to be transported at a staging area, after U.S. President Joe Biden announced a sweeping border security enforcement effort, in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, U.S. June 6, 2024. REUTERS/Go Nakamura U.S. President Joe Biden announces sweeping border security enforcement effort

The 81-year-old president’s actions to speed up lawful status for people living in the country without legal permission follows his election-year executive order on June 4 that threatened to shut down the US-Mexico border to asylum processing if the average number of illegal arrivals crosses 2,500 per day in a week.

The new policy will allow an estimated 500,000 non-citizen spouses and roughly 50,000 of their children to apply for lawful permanent resident status that they are already eligible for without leaving the country, officials familiar with the plan told the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Federal law currently requires migrants who entered the country illegally and married American citizens to leave the US for 10 years before they can apply for citizenship.

Biden is also expected to announce work-visa reforms for current enrollees in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, according to the outlets.

The nearly 600,0000 DACA holders have been shielded from deportation since 2012 and granted work permits through a program established by then-President Barack Obama, but slow processing times have forced many recipients to temporarily leave their jobs or take leave.

The new initiatives come as polls consistently show that immigration policy is one of Biden’s biggest liabilities after he presided over a record-breaking surge of illegal immigrants, most of whom were allowed into the US to await badly backlogged asylum proceedings.

The border crisis began during Biden’s first year in office as he used executive powers to unilaterally end Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that required most asylum seekers to remain in Mexico as US immigration courts reviewed their claims of persecution.

A record nearly 2.5 million people were apprehended after illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, in addition to an estimated 670,000 “got-aways” who evaded authorities.

December set an all-time monthly record with more than 302,000 people arrested for illegally entering from Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was impeached in February by House Republicans for allegedly failing to secure the border, said in January that more than 85% of those detained for illegally crossing the border were being released into the US.

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