Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke on Thursday joined California Congresswoman Linda T. Sánchez and New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez in introducing the bicameral United States Citizenship Act of 2021 that seeks to overhaul America’s immigration system.
The Act is in keeping with US President Joe Biden’s “bold, inclusive and humane” plan for the future of the United States immigration system, opening up a pathway to citizenship for millions of Caribbean and other immigrants.
“I am the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, and I am uniquely familiar with the need for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn, New York.
“As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, I have seen the glaring inequities, blatant racism, vicious xenophobia, and civil rights violations immigrants face, particularly in immigrant communities of African descent.
“Our immigration system is broken, and I will not relent until our immigration system reflects a modern and equitable approach to this issue. Reversing the policies of the last four years is not enough. We must reimagine the immigration system in a manner that is humane, just, and fair.
“This bill is the Biden-Harris administration’s vision to fix our immigration system once and for all. The time has come for the values of our nation to be reflected in our immigration policies. I am proud to co-lead this paramount legislation,” Clarke continued.
The legislation would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants a pathway to earned citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients and “essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic.”
The measure would also prioritize family reunification, keeping families together; and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth.
Additionally, the legislation would also equip the country to “responsibly and effectively manage the border with smart and effective investments”; address root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America; and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights.
Clarke said the US Citizenship Act of 2021 establishes “a moral and economic imperative and a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive.”
She said it creates an “earned roadmap” to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants, providing Dreamers, TPS holders and some farmworkers with “an expedited three-year path to citizenship”, and giving all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with “an eight-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.”
The congresswoman said the Act reforms family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members, and increasing per-country caps for family-based immigration.
The Act also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protections for orphans, widows and children, and allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the US on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available, Clarke said.
Additionally, she said the Act, among other things, “grows our economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from US universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, and giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system.”