President Biden on Tuesday introduced significant new protections for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, marking one of the most substantial presidential actions for immigrants in over a decade. The new policy aims to shield approximately 500,000 undocumented spouses from deportation and provide them with a pathway to citizenship and legal employment in the United States.

Pathway to Citizenship for Undocumented Spouses

Under the new initiative, undocumented spouses who have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years and are married to American citizens as of June 17 will be eligible for the new protections. This policy also extends benefits to around 50,000 children who are stepchildren to American citizens. Previously, these individuals would have to return to their home countries to complete the green card process, often leading to long separations from their families. The new policy allows families to stay together while pursuing legal status.

“It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do,” said Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat of Nevada. She emphasized that Biden’s action would bolster the economy and resonate with voters in swing states like Nevada, Arizona, and Georgia.

Addressing Criticism and Balancing Immigration Policy

This decision comes as President Biden seeks to balance the political landscape on immigration, a prominent issue in the 2024 elections. Just two weeks ago, Biden announced a crackdown on asylum seekers, suspending longstanding guarantees for those who step onto U.S. soil. To offset criticism from progressives, Biden is also expected to introduce measures making it easier for undocumented young people, often referred to as Dreamers, to obtain work visas.

The president’s new policy utilizes “parole in place,” a status previously used for families of military members, allowing noncitizens to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. However, this move has faced backlash from Trump allies, with Stephen Miller, an architect of Trump’s anti-immigration policies, condemning it as an attack on democracy.

Real Impact on Families

The announcement has brought hope to many families. Ashley DeAzevedo, head of American Families United, whose husband is undocumented, expressed relief at the new policy. “It would be an absolute game changer to not have to worry about being separated,” she said, highlighting the constant fear her family lives under due to her husband’s undocumented status.

The benefits for undocumented spouses are expected to take effect by the end of the summer, with eligible individuals able to apply for these protections. This initiative aims to provide stability and security for families who have lived in uncertainty for years.

Looking Ahead: Impact on DACA and Dreamers

While celebrating the 12th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), President Biden also addressed concerns about the program’s future. DACA, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young adults to work and live without fear of deportation, remains entangled in legal challenges and has been closed to new applicants since 2017.

Biden plans to ease the process for DACA recipients and other Dreamers to obtain work visas and eventually green cards. This policy change aims to alleviate the fears of DACA recipients like Monica Sandoval, an emergency room nurse who has relied on the program to maintain her job and nursing license. “This would be life-changing for me,” Sandoval said, hopeful that the new process will bring long-term security for her and her family.

In conclusion, President Biden’s new protections for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens represent a significant step towards a more humane immigration policy, balancing enforcement with compassion. These measures are expected to have a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of families, providing a pathway to stability and citizenship in the United States.

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