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Joe Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday as the nation’s 46th president and one of his first moves was to introduce a comprehensive bill to modernize the U.S. immigration system.

President Joe Biden calls for sweeping immigration reform on first day in office

The proposed U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 seeks to create a path to citizenship for many undocumented workers — a key issue for the restaurants that employ them

On the day Joe Biden was inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president on Wednesday, one of his first legislative moves was to introduce a comprehensive bill to modernize the U.S. immigration system.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is designed to create a path to citizenship for some of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., many of whom work in the restaurant and agricultural industries.

Outlined in a four-page summary that was shared with the media, the Citizenship Act is designed to mark a sharp pivot from the tone of the Trump administration, which was staunchly anti-immigrant, leaving many living in fear of workforce raids and deportation while Trump was in office.

Here’s a brief summary of what the bill proposes:

  • Certain undocumented immigrants would be able to apply for temporary legal status with the ability to apply for a green card after five years if they pass criminal and security background checks and pay taxes.
  • Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children, certain immigrant farm workers and those under protected legal status would be immediately eligible for green cards and could be eligible for citizenship after three years after passing background checks.

The bill also offers reforms to reunify families, and protections for orphans, widows and Filipino veterans who fought alongside the U.S. during World War II. It prohibits discrimination based on religion, offers funding for state and local immigrant and refugee support programs and eliminates some hurdles for work-related green cards.

The proposed Citizenship Act also calls for a commission to improve the employment verification process, and it increases penalties for employers who violate labor laws.

In a policy pledge outlining plans for his first 100 days in office, Biden argued that “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.

The sweeping bill is likely to face opposition as is in Congress, though Democrats hold a tie-breaking majority. On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) reportedly called the bill a “non-starter,” saying it offered “blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully.”

For a more detailed look at the bill, read “On first day in office, President Joe Biden calls for sweeping immigration reform.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@informa.com

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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