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Napolitano Joins Over 100 Colleagues in Introducing the U.S. Citizenship Act

February 18, 2021
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, DC)  Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-El Monte) proudly joined over 100 of her colleagues in introducing the bicameral U.S. Citizenship Act, the Biden-Harris administration’s big, bold, and inclusive vision for immigration reform.

“Immigrants work hard, pay taxes, and contribute so much to our communities, often at great risk to their own health and safety,” Napolitano said. “Now we have an opportunity to bring millions out of the shadows and more fully into everyday American society, finally doing the right thing for our country and our economy. Our bill provides those who have lived in the U.S. for years, in some cases decades, an earned pathway to citizenship and an opportunity to fulfill the promise of the American Dream. With a new administration committed to modernizing our immigration system rather than demonizing immigrants, we must finish the job and pass immigration reform this year.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with an earned pathway to citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers, who have made enormous sacrifices throughout the course of the pandemic. It modernizes our immigration system and prioritizes keeping families together, grows our economy while protecting every worker, and responsibly and effectively manages the border with smart and effective investments. The bill also addresses the root causes of migration from Central America, and ensures that the United States remains a refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence.

The U.S. Citizenship Act is the product of tireless work by immigration and civil rights leaders from across the U.S., as well as members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Tri-Caucus. It restores humanity and American values to our immigration system, while focusing on the aspirations of those most directly impacted by our immigration laws. Napolitano is one of 80 original House cosponsors and 19 original Senate cosponsors of the legislation, which is authored by Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA-38) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in the House and Senate, respectively.

Key Provisions of the U.S. Citizenship Act

  • Creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing Dreamers, TPS holders, and some farmworkers with an expedited 3-year path to citizenship, and giving all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with an 8-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.
  • 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. It also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protections for orphans, widows, and children, allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
  • 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 U.S. 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. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers. 
  • Increases funding for immigrant integration initiatives and supports state and local governments, NGOs, and other community organizations that conduct inclusion programs, provide English language assistance, and make available naturalization resources to immigrant communities.
  • Protects workers from exploitation and improves the employment verification process by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor to establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to help improve the employment verification process and granting workers who suffer serious labor violations greater access to U visa relief.
  • Supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by eliminating the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, reducing asylum application backlogs, increasing protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.
  • Addresses the root causes of migration from Central America by funding the President’s four-year plan to increase assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras conditioned on their ability to reduce the corruption, violence, poverty, and famine that now causes people to flee. 
  • Creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection, so they can apply for legal status in Central America instead of making the dangerous journey north. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to unite families more quickly with approved family sponsorship petitions.
  • Cracks down on bad actors by enhancing the ability to prosecute individuals involved in smuggling, narcotics and trafficking networks who are responsible for drugs flowing into our country and the exploitation of migrants. It will also expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.
  • Improves the immigration courts and protects vulnerable individuals by expanding family case management programs, reducing immigration court backlogs, expanding training for immigration judges, and improving technology for immigration courts. It also restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals and gives funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children. 
  • Modernizes and manages the border effectively, using technology that enhances our ability to detect contraband and counter transnational criminal networks since illicit drugs are most likely to be smuggled through legal ports of entry. It also authorizes and provides funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry to enhance the ability to process asylum seekers and detect, interdict, disrupt and prevent narcotics from entering the United States.
  • Protects border communities by providing for additional rescue beacons to prevent needless deaths along the border, requiring agent training and oversight to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requiring department-wide policies governing the use of force. It also authorizes and provides funding for DHS, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and nongovernmental experts, to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.

The text of the House version can be viewed here.

The text of the Senate version can be viewed here.

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