Under the proposed legislation, 11 million undocumented immigrants—many of whom work in food-related sectors—would have a pathway to citizenship.

By Jelisa Castrodale
January 21, 2021
Advertisement

After Joe Biden took the oath of office, walked down Pennsylvania Avenue with his family, and addressed his new staff members, the 46th President went straight to work. On Wednesday, he signed more than a dozen executive actions, which included rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, made mask-wearing mandatory in federal buildings, and stopped construction on the wall on the southern border

Biden also introduced legislation that outlines a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, and provides additional protections for others, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. 

Credit: John Moore / Staff/Getty Images

Under the proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, immigrants who were already in the United States on January 1 could acquire "temporary status" for five years and, if they meet a number of requirements—like paying taxes and passing a background check—then they could earn a green card at the end of the temporary period. After holding a green card for three years, they would be eligible to apply for citizenship. 

According to the Washington Post, this represents the most comprehensive and ambitious attempt at immigration reform since 2013. 

"A modern immigration system must allow our economy to grow, while protecting the rights, wages, and working conditions of all workers, and holding employers accountable if they don't play by the rules," an in-depth explanation of Biden's immigration policies says. "Immigrant rights and worker rights are deeply connected. We must ensure that every worker is protected, can join a union, and can exercise their labor rights–regardless of immigration status–for the safety of all workers." 

Nation's Restaurant News reports that the proposed legislation has been praised by the National Restaurant Association and United Farm Workers, as both organizations acknowledged the valuable contributions of immigrant workers in their respective industries. 

"The restaurant industry today reflects the cultural traditions and hard work of immigrants who come to America seeking a better life. They add to the vast diversity that makes our smallest to largest restaurants cornerstones of their communities," Sean Kennedy, the National Restaurant Association's executive vice president of public affairs, said. "We encourage Congress and the Administration to provide a pathway for legalization; create an effective essential worker program to meet workforce needs; secure our borders while facilitating efficient travel and tourism; and implement a reliable federal employment verification program."

United Farm Workers president Teresa Romero echoed those sentiments. "Under the Biden bill, farm workers with work histories would immediately get legal status," she said in a statement. "This bill is fundamentally different than what any other president has ever done in emancipating farm workers so they can escape pervasive fear and behave like free women and men [...] Now we must work to turn this vision into reality."