Half a million immigrants could eventually get US citizenship under a sweeping new plan from Biden

Updated 6:39 PM PDT, June 18, 2024
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden ordered expansive election-year action Tuesday to offer potential citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants without legal status in the U.S., aiming to balance his recent aggressive crackdown on the southern border that enraged advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.

The president announced that his administration will, in the coming months, allow certain U.S. citizens’ spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country. The action by Biden, a Democrat, could affect upwards of half a million immigrants, according to senior administration officials.

“The Statue of Liberty is not some relic of American history. It still stands for who we are,” Biden said from a crowded East Room at the White House, filled with advocates, congressional Democrats and immigrants who would be eligible for the program. “But I also refuse to believe that for us to continue to be America that embraces immigration, we have to give up securing our border. They’re false choices.”

Biden’s action, which amounts to the most expansive federal protection for immigrants in over a decade, sets up a significant political contrast with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose hardline stance on immigration includes a push for mass deportations and rhetoric casting migrants as dangerous criminals “poisoning the blood” of America.

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On Tuesday, Biden accused “my predecessor” of preying on fears about immigrants as he chastised Trump administration moves, such as a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border that led to the separation of families. But Trump has leaned into his own policies as Biden has faced disapproval of his handling of immigration throughout his presidency. At a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, Trump proclaimed, “When I’m reelected, Joe Biden’s illegal amnesty plan will be ripped up and thrown out on the very first day that we’re back in office.”

Because the shadow of a second Trump administration looms over Biden’s new policy, Tuesday’s actions will set off a months-long sprint by Latino organizations to get as many people to apply for the program as possible before next January.

To qualify for Biden’s actions, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen, both as of Monday. If a qualifying immigrant’s application is approved, he or she would have three years to apply for a green card and receive a temporary work permit and be shielded from deportation in the meantime.

About 50,000 noncitizen children with parents who are married to U.S. citizen could also potentially qualify for the process, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. There is no requirement on how long the couple must have been married, but no one becomes eligible after Monday. That means immigrants who reach that 10-year mark after Monday will not qualify for the program, according to the officials.

Senior administration officials said they anticipate the process will be open for applications by the end of the summer. Fees to apply have yet to be determined.

Biden formally unveiled his plans at a Tuesday event at the White House, which also marked the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a popular Obama-era directive that offered deportation protections and temporary work permits for young immigrants who lack legal status.

The announcement was welcome news to families with mixed immigration status, such as Antonio and Brenda Valle in Los Angeles. They have been married for nearly 12 years and have two sons who are U.S. citizens, but they have lived with the worry every two years that Brenda Valle’s status as a DACA recipient will not be renewed.

“We can start planning more long-term, for the future, instead of what we can do for the next two years,” she said.

Foday Turay was among those invited to the White House Tuesday for the announcement. He came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old from Sierra Leone, and is now a father to a young son and married to a third-generation U.S. citizen. Although he’s enrolled in DACA and working as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, his status doesn’t provide relief from the constant worry of deportation.

“My wife is tremendously impacted by this,” Turay said Tuesday before the ceremony. “You know, every day she talks to me about what’s going to happen. What if I get deported? You know, how are we going to raise our son? What country are we going to raise him?”

Republicans were making their own sharp contrasts with Biden’s plan. In a likely preview of GOP campaign ads, Rep. Richard Hudson, chair of House Republicans’ campaign arm, called the Biden policy a “mass amnesty plan.” Other Republicans, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, anticipated that this latest directive would be struck down by the courts.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is under consideration to be Trump’s pick for vice president, forcefully advocated for legislation in 2012 that would have offered legal status to young immigrants, but on Tuesday he said “the world is different” now because immigration numbers have risen.

Tuesday’s announcement came two weeks after Biden unveiled a sweeping crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border that effectively halted asylum claims for those arriving between officially designated ports of entry. Immigrant-rights groups have sued the Biden administration over that directive, which a senior administration official said Monday had led to fewer border encounters between ports.

Biden’s allies believe that the approach he is taking with his twin actions on immigration this month will resonate with voters.

“The only party that is being serious about border security is the Democrats. The only party that’s being thoughtful and compassionate about what to do with people who are living in the shadows are the Democrats,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who helped author a bipartisan border bill earlier this year. “The Republican Party has decided to take a walk on border security.”

Among advocates, Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, said Biden’s announcement would energize Latino communities to get out and support him.

“This is what our communities have needed to rally behind President Biden for reelection,” he said.

Biden also announced new regulations that will allow certain DACA beneficiaries and other young immigrants to more easily qualify for long-established work visas. That would allow qualifying immigrants to have protection that is sturdier than the work permits offered by DACA, which is currently facing legal challenges and is no longer taking new applications.

The power that Biden is invoking with his Tuesday announcement for spouses is not a novel one. The policy would expand on authority used by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to allow “parole in place” for family members of military members, said Andrea Flores, a former policy adviser in the Obama and Biden administrations who is now a vice president at FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization.

The parole-in-place process allows qualifying immigrants to get on the path to U.S. permanent residency without leaving the country, removing a common barrier for those without legal status but married to Americans. Flores called it “the biggest win for the immigrant rights movement since the announcement of DACA 12 years ago.”

The same progressives who were infuriated with Biden’s asylum order praised the president on Tuesday. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, commended Biden and said the actions would help keep American families together.

“Many Americans would be shocked to hear that when a U.S. citizen marries an undocumented person, their spouse is not automatically eligible for citizenship,” she said. ”Imagine loving someone, marrying them, and then still continuing to fear you would be separated from them.”

Associated Press writers Christine Fernando in Racine, Wis., Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, and Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

New study

New Study Focuses on the Huge Economic Contributions of Immigrants in Santa Clara County

Study by American Immigration Council is a lens into the community; release coincides with National Welcoming Week for new American

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. – A new study on the impacts of immigrants on Santa Clara County – released during National Welcoming Week for new Americans – reveals the depth of economic contributions made by this segment of the population, which accounts for 2 out of every 5 persons living in the county.

The report was created by the American Immigration Council, which worked with the County of Santa Clara Office of Immigrant Relations to examine and analyze the crucial role immigrants play in the region’s labor force, business sector, and consumer spending power. 

“What a wonderful time to showcase the hard facts and numbers that lay out what immigrants currently do for our county, and what immigrants have always done for our country,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Otto Lee. “Silicon Valley offers immigrants opportunity and hope, and in return the immigrants do more than their share in terms of contributing to the economic boom of the county, the Bay Area, and beyond.”

Among the findings in the New Americans in Santa Clara County report:

  • While immigrants make up about 40% of the population, they contribute 54% of the gross domestic product created in Santa Clara County each year – $255 billion in 2021. 
  • Nearly half of the 1 million people who make up the Santa Clara County’s labor force are immigrants. 
  • Immigrants are helping the county meet its labor force demands. In 2021, immigrants made up 40.6 percent of the county’s population, but accounted for 49.9 percent of its employed labor force.
  • Immigrant households support the federal safety net. Immigrants in Santa Clara County contributed $5.1 billion to Social Security and $1.8 billion to Medicare in 2021. 
  • Immigrants play a significant role in the county as entrepreneurs. In 2021, immigrants represented half the business owners in Santa Clara County and generated $1.5 billion in business income in the county.
  • Immigrants are helping the county fill crucial labor force needs in STEM and other key industries. In 2021, immigrants accounted for 67 percent of the region’s science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers, 64 percent of manufacturing workers, and 56 percent of professional service workers.

The report is the first step toward the development of a Countywide immigrant welcoming plan, with the next step being a needs assessment of the immigrant population. The goal is to find best practices to accommodate and welcome new families arriving in Santa Clara County. 

“We are a nation of immigrants and a county of neighbors,” said President of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Susan Ellenberg. “When we talk about the goal of making our county the best place to raise a child, we are referring to all families and all children – regardless of where they were born or what language is spoken in their homes. Our strength is greatest and our union more perfect when we welcome and feel responsible for one another.”  

County Executive James R. Williams, who as a first generation American is the child of immigrants, said the County highly values the diversity brought by immigrants. He noted that the County has been a leader in promoting immigrant rights, including successfully fighting the Trump administration when it threatened to pull federal funding from welcoming communities like Santa Clara County.

“We have persevered, standing strong with our immigrant community time and time again,” Williams said. “We recognize that our immigrants and diversity are a fundamental part of this county’s fabric, and we will always dedicate attention and resources to supporting the health, well-being, dignity, and equity of these families. This study helps clearly show just how much immigrants enrich our entire community.” 

Mo Kantner, senior director of policy and research at the American Immigration Council, said the county has a “rich history of immigration, shaping the region’s culture and economy.” She pointed out that, nationally, immigrants account for just over 13 percent of the population, but in Santa Clara County they are more than 40 percent of the population. 

“That’s more than 765,000 immigrants living in Santa Clara County, with nearly 56 percent of households having at least one immigrant resident,” Kantner said. “This report quantifies the multifaceted contributions immigrants are currently making across the county, and how their diverse skills and talents help create an inclusive, vibrant community.”


The Office of Immigrant Relations is a County program that promotes immigrant integration and belonging by addressing issues and needs, and uplifting immigrant contributions. The mission of the County of Santa Clara is to plan for the needs of a dynamic community, provide quality services, and promote a healthy, safe, and prosperous community for all. We envision a county where the immigrant community is safe, connected and has opportunities to grow, thrive and feel a sense of belonging. 

USA Hello Afghan Resource Center

The Afghan Resource Center offers practical information and resources for newly arriving Afghans to the USA. Find information in English, Dari, or Pashto on services and benefits, immigration, jobs, daily life, American culture, U.S. laws, money, health, and education. Use our Find Hello app to connect to local services in cities across the country. Find help for every status including Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), refugees, and people with humanitarian parole.

Apply for Federal Student Loan Debt Relief  OMB No. 1845-0167, Exp. Date 4/30/2023

Apply for Federal Student Loan Debt Relief  OMB No. 1845-0167, Exp. Date 4/30/2023

Application is open, but debt discharge is paused.

As a result of a court order, we are temporarily blocked from processing debt discharges. We encourage you to apply if you are eligible. We will continue to review applications. We will quickly process discharges when we are able to do so and you will not need to reapply.

Dec. 31, 2022 is the day the pause on federal student loans expires. If you have outstanding debt after the amount forgiven, make sure that you have enough money set aside to begin resuming payments in January.