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Biden Announces New Protections for Married Dreamers on 12th Anniversary of DACA

Immigrant advocates praised the move but noted that Biden has issued inhumane anti-immigrant orders in the recent past.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on May 31, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced new protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in the United States who have lived here for years and are currently married to U.S. citizens.

The proposed plan is an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was implemented by the Obama administration almost 12 years ago to the day.

The proposal could affect around 550,000 married individuals who are protected under DACA, who are sometimes referred to as Dreamers. Qualifying individuals will be protected from deportation, provided with work permits and granted an easier pathway to citizenship.

In general, immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen are already granted a faster pathway to citizenship themselves — however, individuals who entered the country in violation of U.S. statutes (as many Dreamers had done with their parents as children) must return to their “home” countries to complete the process for a green card, even if they are married to a citizen, a process that can, in some circumstances, take up to 10 years to complete.

The proposal utilizes an action called “parole in place,” which allows people to pursue citizenship status without fear of being deported or having to return to their “home” countries to complete the process. Children of noncitizen spouses who are not citizens themselves would also be protected under the policy.

“These actions will promote family unity and strengthen our economy, providing a significant benefit to the country and helping U.S. citizens and their noncitizen family members stay together,” a fact sheet from the Biden White House stated.

To be eligible for the new protections, a person must have lived in the U.S. since at least June of 2014 and been married to a citizen for just as long. They must also not be deemed a threat to public safety or national security by the state.

Immigrant rights advocates lauded the administration’s action to protect married Dreamers.

“Today is a happy day for many immigrant families across America. … These are the most significant protections for immigrant families since the DACA program was first announced in 2012 by the Obama-Biden administration,” said Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-California), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Others noted that, while today’s action is a positive move, Biden has repeatedly issued cruel and inhumane immigration policies throughout his presidency — including his executive order from earlier this month that limits the number of asylum seekers who can enter the U.S. and gives him the authority to deport thousands based on the number of crossings that occur between ports of entry, an action that is likely in violation of international law.

“President Biden’s action is a step in the right direction for the nearly half a million people living in the United States who may benefit from today’s announcement,” said Natalia Aristizabal, deputy director of Make the Road NY. “For years we have been calling on the president to pass immigration reform. In the absence of congressional action on a comprehensive and humane bill, we are glad to see Biden announce this today.”

Aristizabal added:

The potential impact of today’s action on families will be far-reaching. … At the same time, we continue to call on President Biden to implement more common-sense immigration measures that will make real impact in our communities. While extremists in the Republican Party continue to push xenophobic policies, it is more important than ever for President Biden to use his executive power — not to cave to anti-immigrant sentiment, like he has done in limiting asylum — but to push forward policies that will truly benefit all Americans.

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