February 19, 2021

Duckworth, Durbin Join Congressional Democrats to Introduce U.S. Citizenship Act


[WASHINGTON, DC] -- U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and U.S. Representative Linda Sánchez (D-CA-38) to introduce the bicameral U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, President Biden’s bold, inclusive, and humane framework for the future of the United States immigration system. The legislation would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic; prioritize family reunification and keeping families together; and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth. The bill 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. 

“Immigrants are doctors, teachers, students, essential workers and servicemembers—they’re vibrant parts of our American society and, unfortunately, our broken immigration system has failed many of them for far too long,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in helping introduce the U.S. Citizenship Act to restore American values in our system by providing millions of hardworking immigrants with a pathway to citizenship, prioritize keeping families together and boost the economy.”

“This legislation reflects our proud heritage as a nation of immigrants. After years of inaction and obstruction, Congress has a responsibility to finally fix our broken immigration system. I applaud the Biden Administration’s wholehearted commitment to meaningful reform of our immigration system.  As Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I look forward to working with President Biden and Vice President Harris to create an immigration system that Americans can be proud of,” said Durbin.  

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (Senate version/House version) establishes a moral and economic imperative and a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive:

  • Creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing  Dreamers, TPS recipients, and farmworkers with an expedited three-year path to citizenship, and giving other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with an eight-year path to citizenship.
  • Reforms family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing unused visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including processing 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 in the United States, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, and giving dependents of H-1B visa holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B visa 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 administer inclusion programs, provide English language assistance, and provide naturalization resources to immigrant communities.
  • Protects workers from exploitation 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.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 also addresses the root causes of migration and prioritizes U.S. national security:

  • 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 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 more quickly reunite families 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.
  • Modernizes and manages the border effectively through the use of 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.

Joining Duckworth, Durbin and Menendez on the Senate bill include Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennett (D-CO), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Tina Smith (D-MN).

Click here for the Senate version of bill text of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.

Click here for the House version of bill text of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.