- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 18, 2021

President Biden‘s immigration bill cancels penalties for future illegal immigrants, speeds legalization of those already here and increases legal immigration levels. But the bill, which lawmakers will officially introduce on Capitol Hill on Thursday, backtracks on new border security and worksite enforcement compromises that have long been seen as key parts of any serious attempt to overhaul the immigration system.

A senior administration official acknowledged that was intentional.

“This is not a bipartisan bill,” the official told reporters in previewing the legislation.

The Biden plan checks off most of the major wish-list items of immigrant-rights activists, including: funding lawyers for some migrants who want to challenge their deportations; granting speedy legal status to “Dreamers” and farm workers; pouring cash into Latin America for nation-building activities; and slashing barriers to legal immigration.

And the new bill also takes pains to reject the immigration solutions proposed by former President Trump.

Where he called for ending the diversity lottery that gives away green cards by random chance, the Biden plan increases the number from 55,000 to 80,000.

Mr. Trump’s calls to limit the chain of family migration are also rejected, and instead the Biden proposal increases chances for family migration.

And where Mr. Trump saw the U.S. system as the root cause of illegal immigration, serving as a pull factor to entice people to make the journey, Mr. Biden instead argues the push factors in Latin America are more important.

“We’re just focusing on what works. What’s clear that does not work is just having a wall and not addressing the reasons why people are coming,” the official told reporters.

The official did suggest they expect enforcement measures to be added by Republicans in Congress later, though she would not speculate on what types of additions would be acceptable to the new president.

“The president is restarting the conversation,” the official said.

Sen. Robert Menendez will be introducing the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Linda T. Sanchez will introduce it in the House.

There are no Republicans known to be on board as of now, and some Republicans who had been part of past efforts, such as the 2013 bill that cleared the Senate, have already rejected Mr. Biden‘s framework.

One of those, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has labeled the Biden plan a “blanket amnesty.”

The crux of the bill is legal status for most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S.

Those who made it into the country before Jan. 1, 2021, would be eligible. They would get a five-year provisional status, then could get a green card and get citizenship three years later.

“Dreamers” and most of those here under Temporary Protected Status would get an even faster path, with immediate green cards. Migrants who could prove they’ve been employed as farm workers would also be eligible for that path.

The bill backtracks on past compromises that even Democrats had accepted, such as workplace enforcement.

The Obama administration supported making E-Verify, currently a voluntary method for screening out illegal immigrants from jobs, mandatory as part of any immigration overhaul.

The Biden bill instead leaves E-Verify a voluntary program, and calls for a commission of business and labor officials to talk about future changes.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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