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Opinion | Can Biden Finally Fix America’s Broken Immigration System?

When avenues for legal migration were suddenly restricted after 1965, enforcement efforts had the opposite of their intended effect: Since 1996, as Dara Lind explains at Vox, most undocumented immigrants have had no way of applying for legal status — even if they marry a U.S. citizen.

In recent years, illegal immigration has decreased from Mexico but increased from Central America and Asia, with the majority occurring because of visa overstays rather than border crossings. As of 2017, about 4.95 million of the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States were from Mexico, 1.9 million were from Central America, 1.45 million were from Asia, and 500,000 were from Europe and Canada, according to the Pew Research Center.


Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the majority leader, vowed to take up Mr. Biden’s immigration proposal, calling it “one of the most important things a Democratic Congress can do.” While Mr. Obama campaigned on the promise of bringing undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows,” he didn’t follow through when Democrats had control of both congressional chambers, and the promise died in 2013 in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

Nine years later, Mr. Biden’s plan is likely to face fierce opposition from Senate Republicans. “The political wrangling over Biden’s plan is going to be significant, and getting Congress to act will take nothing short of a miracle,” Scott Martelle writes in The Los Angeles Times. “Few issues in contemporary American politics are as thorny as immigration, pitting those who believe in living up to our history as a nation built on immigration against folks who would prefer to keep the door only slightly ajar.”

For example, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, has already called the proposal a “nonstarter,” adding that “there are many issues I think we can work cooperatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them.”

Confronted with such opposition, immigration advocates are mulling alternative ways of passing parts of Mr. Biden’s proposal, as Nicole Narea reports for Vox. For example, the advocacy group FWD.us has estimated that about 5 million of the 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in the country are essential pandemic workers, so some congressional Democrats are planning to draft a stand-alone bill to give them access to green cards.

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