Despite the hype from conservatives surrounding the word amnesty while referring to migrants as illegals, President Joe Biden’s executive order providing a pathway to gaining legal status for many spouses and children of U.S. citizens is anything but. Instead, it provides much-needed relief to thousands of mixed-status families – tax-paying, hard-working families.

Let’s cover the basics.

  • Spouses are required to have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years as of June 17, 2024
  • Must have a legally valid marriage to a U.S. citizen as of June 17, 2024
  • Can’t have a criminal history or constitute a threat to national security or public safety
  • Those eligible have resided in the U.S. for an average of 23 years

Unbeknownst to many, those who will benefit from the executive order are already eligible for a green card in the current system. The order helps by removing a barrier that could potentially lead to a decade of family separation. A risk many choose not to take thus stopping them from being able to take advantage of their eligibility. This barrier was implemented under former President Bill Clinton with the passage of, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) in 1996.

“Under current law, noncitizens married to a U.S. citizen may apply for lawful permanent residence through their marriage to a U.S. citizen,” reads the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statement. “However, to apply for lawful permanent residence, many noncitizens must first depart the United States and wait to be processed abroad, resulting in a prolonged, potentially indefinite, period of separation from their U.S. citizen family members and causing tremendous hardship to all concerned. Consequently, these families live in fear and face deep uncertainty about their future.”

The executive action is simply a parole-in-place (PIP) measure that opens a pathway for qualified spouses. It is not amnesty. PIP is an immigration benefit that allows certain foreign nationals in the U.S. without authorization to stay for a limited time. It is granted on a case-by-case basis. According to the executive order, those approved after an assessment of their application by the DHS will be given three years to apply for permanent residency. 

As laid out in the order, the process will help certain noncitizen spouses and children apply for lawful permanent residence (green card) without leaving the country. The White House estimates this will help approximately 500,000 adults and as many as 50,000 children. It should be noted that a green card is not citizenship. Immigrants must be lawful permanent residents for at least five years before qualifying for citizenship. Therefore, they still won’t be able to vote.

“President Biden believes that securing the border is essential,“ reads a White House fact sheet about the executive order. “He also believes in expanding lawful pathways and keeping families together, and that immigrants who have been in the United States for decades, paying taxes and contributing to their communities, are part of the social fabric of our country.”

The order also allows some noncitizens, including beneficiaries of the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program aka Dreamers, to receive work visas more quickly if they have earned a degree at an accredited college in the U.S. and have received an offer of employment from a U.S. employer in a field related to their degree.

Celebrating The Move

Despite the freak-out in conservative and far-right racist circles, many in the immigrant rights advocacy community and several lawmakers are celebrating the executive order by the Biden Administration. Enabling mixed-status families to live without the fear of wrongful deportation will make life much easier for those who have waited decades for relief.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX)

“For too long, mixed-status families have been forced to live in the shadows – worried that a traffic stop or an emergency-room visit could trigger the deportation that tears their family apart,” said Castro in a statement. “Today’s historic announcement will make it possible for hundreds of thousands of parents to drive their kids to school, get a job that pays a living wage, and participate fully in American society. Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform, but this is a compassionate step forward. I look forward to working with the Biden administration to help families access this relief.”

Rep. Greg Casar (D-TX)

“President Biden is bringing stability to hundreds of thousands of American families who could otherwise be torn apart by our broken immigration system,” said Casar in a statement. “Along with so many others, I have been calling on President Biden to make our immigration system more humane, and today, he is answering that call by keeping families together and providing immigrants permits for work instead of continued fear and exclusion. Our country will be safer and more prosperous for everyone – immigrants and native-born alike – because of the work permits and pro-family policies in this executive order.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)

“I want to thank President Biden and Secretary Mayorkas for taking these bold executive actions on immigration to begin to restore some fairness within a system that remains broken without Congressional action,” said Jayapal in a statement. “President Biden recognizes the basic fairness of ensuring that U.S. citizens married to undocumented spouses can keep their families together. The President also recognizes the deep pain of DACA recipients who have been living in limbo and is ensuring he does everything possible to expand legal pathways for DACA recipients. I commend the President for these important actions that will help protect American families across the country.”

Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY)

“As we commemorated 12 years of America being uplifted and bettered by DACA earlier this month, we were each reminded of the vast contributions undocumented individuals continue to bring to our communities through their determination, talents, and devotion to an often ungrateful nation,” said Clarke in a statement. “Undocumented Americans have come to represent an irreplaceable element of our social and economic fabric – yet far too many have remained plagued by uncertainty surrounding their status. Thankfully, through the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic action today, we are on the humanitarian path forward.”

Hating the Move

It’s not unexpected to see Republicans come out swinging against Biden’s executive order. While not all are calling it amnesty (give it a couple of days), many are still promoting the same unfounded and hyperbolic rhetoric about immigrants that is focusing the ire of hate groups and white nationalist extremists on Latinos across the country.

Yes, Latinos.

The truth about what drives so much hate for Latino immigrants is fueled by the hype that is solely focused on the southern border where people assume Mexicans are crossing. In that same ignorance lies the idea that Latinos are all the same: not white. Many of the Republicans quoted here embody that mentality. Most are beholden to Trump. They see him and his bigotry as the future of the party and want to be part of it.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA)

“President Biden campaigned on a platform of relaxing border security, so his executive action today is no surprise,” said Wittman on X (formerly Twitter). “Once again, the Biden administration is incentivizing people to enter our country illegally without consequence.”

Rep. French Hill (R-AR)

“Two weeks ago, President Biden announced his Executive Order to “secure the border,” yet he’s now granting mass amnesty to illegal aliens,” said Hill on X (formerly Twitter). “Biden’s border policies are contradictory and are putting Americans at risk.”

Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)

“President Biden’s move to grant amnesty via executive order is a clear abuse of power, designed to pander to a few Democrats and grant voting rights to illegal aliens,” said Weber on X (formerly Twitter).

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)

“First, President Biden pitches a bogus executive order to “crack down” on illegal immigration,” said Jordan on X (formerly Twitter). “But the order still allows millions of illegal aliens to cross the border. Now, he’s planning amnesty for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens already here. Unbelievable.”

Noticeable Differences

Aside from Republicans doing nothing about the border they pretend to fear so much – even after the Democrats offered them the golden goose with the bipartisan border bill offered earlier this year – it’s impossible to ignore that Democrats issued official statements as Republicans took to social media using inflammatory rhetoric to rile up their followers, bots, and hordes of trolls instead of addressing their constituents directly.

Also hard to ignore is the hyperbolic language Republicans are using in misinforming the public with terms like amnesty and illegal aliens while still promoting false claims of a [brown] invasion at the U.S.-Mexico border. Conservatives will assert the executive order provides amnesty to millions and in turn, creates new Democrat voters. It does none of those things.

It only streamlines one bump in an already shady and expensive immigration process.

Most Unhinged Quote So Far

When it comes to fears of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, no one could bring those home better than Trump’s former cabin boy Stephen Miller. His unhinged statement through his America First Legal (AFL) showed he is deeply afflicted with fears of the “browning of America”. You don’t have to go out on a limb to say he had a conniption typing his statement. I’m pretty sure he did.

Here’s a blurb.

“This is a colossal amnesty and a thunderous attack on American democracy in the form of an imperial edict,” said Miller. “With today’s order, Biden is saying the invasion will continue forever, and the criminal migrant trespassers will be our new voters and citizens.”

AFL says they intend to challenge the executive order in court. If Miller survives this thunderous action that is.

The Antagonist Magazine is a project made up of journalists, activists, and writers focused on amplifying the stories of marginalized communities. The goal is to educate the public by sharing narratives focused on independent voices. Born of an online community in 2019, our platform operates independently; free of corporate influence. Please consider supporting the work of dozens of writers from various communities.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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