President-elect Joseph R. Biden is proposing a significant increase in legal immigration as part of his new legislation that would also legalize most illegal immigrants.
The bill, which Mr. Biden will send to Congress after he is sworn in Wednesday, is more a policy statement than a serious piece of legislation, with almost no chance of being enacted in a form close to how it’s written.
But it lays down a marker for Mr. Biden, for whom immigration, more than any other issue, provides a stark contrast with President Trump.
The bill would be the most generous immigration policy in U.S. history, wiping away barriers for illegal immigrants to integrate into American society.
Mr. Biden wants to end the bar that requires those who have been in the country for some time without permission to go home and wait 10 years before being able to come in legally.
And he would create an opportunity for people who have been deported under President Trump to request to be allowed back into the country.
The bill is light on new security measures, instead focusing on leniency and reversing the direction Mr. Trump had set.
Where Mr. Trump had proposed ending the diversity lottery that doles out visas on the basis of luck, Mr. Biden is proposing a nearly 50% expansion of that program.
“The legislation modernizes our immigration system, and prioritizes keeping families together, growing our economy, responsibly managing the border with smart investments, addressing the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensuring that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution,” the Biden team said in detailing the bill.
The crux of the bill is a generous legalization program for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country.
It would grant immediate legal status to illegal immigrant Dreamers and those here under special humanitarian protections.
Other illegal immigrants would have to go through a process with a five-year wait before obtaining a green card signifying permanent legal status.
Both Dreamers and other illegal immigrants would get a new, speedy chance at citizenship, with just a three-year wait between a green card and eligibility to naturalize.
Mr. Trump had proposed a much smaller immigration legalization in 2018, suggesting a deal that would combine an offer of citizenship rights to some Dreamers in exchange for border wall money, changes to the chain of family migration and an end to the visa lottery.
Democrats rejected his suggestion outright, insisting they wouldn’t bargain for Dreamers.
Before that, the previous major attempt at legalization came in 2013, when the so-called “Gang of Eight” senators came up with a broad bill that would have offered a chance at citizenship to between 7 million and 8 million illegal immigrants and a guest-worker program giving future workers a path to citizenship, too, in exchange for some new border security measures.
Of those eight senators, all four Democrats and two Republicans are still in the chamber.
One of them. Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, will take the lead on the new bill.
“I know all too well from my work with the ‘Gang of Eight’ that passing immigration reform through the United States Congress will be a challenging task. However, there is a moral and economic imperative to get this done,” he said.
One of the Republicans from the Gang of Eight, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, has already declared Mr. Biden’s plan a non-starter.
He said there are too many other issues already stacked up, and besides, Mr. Biden‘s offer doesn’t include any new enforcement standards.
“There are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” Mr. Rubio said.