Biden’s Proposal Brings Hope to Hundreds of Thousands of Immigrants’ Spouses

Biden's Proposal Brings Hope to Hundreds of Thousands of Immigrants' Spouses

Houston — Hundreds of thousands of immigrants rejoiced when President Joe Biden announced a far-reaching proposal to offer legal status to spouses of US residents, but some were obviously left out.

Claudia Zúniga, 35, married in 2017, 10 years after her husband moved to the US. He relocated to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after their wedding, knowing that he would have to live outside the nation for years to achieve legal status. “Our lives turned 180 degrees,” she remarked.

Biden stated Tuesday that his administration will allow U.S. residents’ spouses without legal status to seek for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship without having to leave the country for up to ten years. Senior administration officials estimate that approximately 500,000 immigrants could profit.

To be eligible, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for ten years and be married to a US citizen, both as of Monday. Zúniga’s husband is ineligible as he was not in the United States.

“It would be a dream come true,” said Zúniga, a part-time employee in her father’s Houston transportation firm. “My husband may join us. We could concentrate on the health of our children.”

Every immigration benefit, even those as broad as Biden’s election-year offer, has a deadline and additional eligibility restrictions. In September, the Democratic president extended temporary status to almost 500,000 Venezuelans living in the United States on July 31, 2023. Those who arrived one day later were out of luck.

The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, which has shielded from deportation hundreds of thousands of people who arrived in the United States as children, required applicants to have been in the country on June 15, 2012, and continuously for the previous five years.

According to advocacy group, around 1.1 million spouses who are in the country illegally are married to US residents, which means that hundreds of thousands will not be eligible because they have been in the nation for less than ten years.

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Immigration activists were generally pleased with the extent of Tuesday’s statement, while Biden’s detractors branded it a tragically misguided gift.

Angelica Martinez, 36, wiped away tears as she sat next to her 14- and 6-year-old children and watched Biden’s statement at the Houston office of FIEL, an immigrant advocacy organization. She has been a US citizen since 2013, and she expressed a range of feelings, including grief that her husband was unable to travel to Mexico after his mother died five years ago.

“Sadness and joy all at the same time,” said Martinez, whose spouse moved to Houston 18 years ago.

Brenda Valle of Los Angeles renews her DACA status every two years. Her spouse has been a US citizen since 2001 and, like her, was born in Mexico. “We can start planning more long-term, for the future, instead of what we can do for the next two years,” she told me.

Magdalena Gutiérrez of Chicago, who has been married to a US citizen for 22 years and has three US-citizen daughters, expressed “a little more hope” following Biden’s declaration. Gutiérrez, 43, wants to travel more across the United States without fear of being arrested and deported.

Allyson Batista, a former Philadelphia teacher and US citizen who married her Brazilian husband 20 years ago, recalls being warned by a lawyer that he could either leave the country for ten years or “remain in the shadows and wait for a change in the law.”

“When we first got married, I was foolish and thought, ‘OK, but I’m American. This is not going to be an issue. “We’re going to fix this,” Batista stated. “I learned very early on that we were facing a pretty dire circumstance and that there would be no way for us to move forward in an immigration process successfully.”

The couple raised three children who are now pursuing higher education. Batista is waiting for information on how her husband might apply for a green card.

“I’m hopeful,” Batista stated. “The next 60 days will tell. But, certainly, I’m overjoyed because every step forward brings us closer to a final conclusion for all types of immigrant families.”

According to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, approximately 50,000 noncitizen children whose parents are married to US citizens may also be eligible. Biden also announced new regulations that will make it easier for DACA recipients and other young immigrants to obtain long-term work visas.


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