Biden order could allow nearly 500,000 immigrant spouses to live "without fear of deportation"

The new action applies to immigrants who have worked and lived in the U.S. for over 10 years

Published June 18, 2024 1:00PM (EDT)

U.S. President Joe Biden delivered remarks in the State Dining Room at the White House on May 31, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden delivered remarks in the State Dining Room at the White House on May 31, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Nearly 500,000 undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens and 50,000 children of mixed-status families could be spared deportation and provided legal status under the latest initiative from President Joe Biden, which would specifically open up the prospect of citizenship to undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for over 10 years, The Guardian reported.

This new executive action, expected to be announced by Biden at a White House event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, comes after he announced limits on asylum-seeking immigrants at the southern border earlier this month.

“This is the biggest thing since DACA,” an immigration advocate familiar with the matter told NBC News.

DACA is a directive from Obama’s presidency that offers temporary work permits and deportation protection for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, the Associated Press reported. Biden's action will also allow DACA recipients with degrees in higher education who are seeking jobs in the same field to receive work visas more quickly.

“These eligible non-citizens who have lived here for 10 years or more have deep family and community ties in the United States,” a senior White House official told reporters, The Guardian reported. “Many of these families include US citizen children, yet they live in fear and face deep uncertainty about their future.”

There are some misconceptions surrounding how all the immigration system currently works, said Ashley de Azevedo, the president of American Families United.

"The system doesn’t work like it does in the movies,” he said. “You don’t marry an American and automatically get a green card. There are laws in place that make it impossible for so many."

For example, immigrants who entered the country without authorization or overstayed a visa are required to leave the U.S. and go back to their country of origin before applying for permanent residency, separating them from their families. The status quo leads many to live in the U.S. illegally and risk deportation to avoid being apart from their families.

Republicans have already attacked the action as “amnesty," and legal challenges are expected. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, praised the move.

Biden's decision "will fully allow these deserving individuals to put down roots, start families, further their education, and continue contributing to our society without fear of deportation,” Durbin said, per NBC News.

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