Biden announces relief for some undocumented spouses of US citizens, 'Dreamers'

The action will impact some undocumented children as well.

June 18, 2024, 3:25 PM

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced two new election-year executive actions that could provide relief to thousands of undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for several years.

"Today's a good day," Biden said, to cheers from an audience at the White House.

The first action aims to streamline the process through which undocumented spouses and undocumented children of U.S. citizens apply for lawful permanent residence.

The policy will allow noncitizen spouses married to U.S. citizens to apply to live and work in the United States legally without having to leave the country. Noncitizen children of applicants would also be eligible for protection.

President Joe Biden speaks at an event marking the 12th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the White House in Washington, June 18, 2024.
Drew Angerer/AFP via Getty Images

Under current laws, some undocumented migrants must first leave the U.S. and apply for legal residency from their home countries when they marry a citizen. In some cases, those migrants are barred from returning to the U.S. for up to 10 years.

To be eligible for the program, noncitizen spouses must have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024, without having been previously legally admitted into the country, or paroled into the country. They also must have been legally married to a U.S. citizen as of the same date and must also be deemed not to pose a threat to public safety or national security. If found eligible, the spouses would be given three years to apply for legal permanent residence.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that up to half a million spouses could be eligible for the program, and approximately 50,000 children of these spouses would also be protected.

Biden said the steps are "overwhelmingly supported by the American people, no matter what the other team says. In fact, polls show over 70% of Americans support this effort to keep families together."

"President Biden is taking an incredibly important action by helping the spouses of U.S. citizens get a path to citizenship. This balanced approach, combined with Biden's border security actions, is much more popular than Trump’s mass deportation plan," Kerri Talbot, Executive Director of The Immigration Hub, told ABC News in a statement.

The president also announced a new action that will allow some undocumented immigrants, including some DACA recipients and so-called "Dreamers," to obtain employment-based nonimmigrant visas quicker, senior administration officials said.

To be eligible, applicants must have graduated from an accredited higher education institution in the United States and have a high-skilled job offer from a U.S. employer in their field of study.

President Joe Biden speaks at an event marking the 12th anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals at the White House in Washington, June 18, 2024.
Drew Angerer/AFP via Getty Images

"It's the right thing to do," Biden said. "I want those who have been educated at U.S. colleges and universities to put their skills and knowledge to work for here in America. I want to keep building the strongest economy in the world with the best workforce in the world."

Tuesday’s announcement comes just two weeks after President Biden implemented an executive action that restricts the number of migrants who can seek asylum in between ports of entry when migrant encounters at the border reach more than a daily rate of 2,500 for a week straight.

Some members of his own party denounced the asylum cap. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to challenge the order last week.

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told ABC News in an interview that caucus members had met with the President at the White House in May and called for the protections announced today.

"I think it's a happy day for many immigrant families across America. I think there's going to be people crying tears of joy paired with some sighs of relief. This is a significant executive action by President Biden and the Hispanic Caucus has been for months encouraging and advocating for the President and administration to provide these protections," the congresswoman said.

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