Representative Yvette Clarke speaks during election campaign rally for Governor Kathy Hochul at BKLYN Studios in New York on November 5, 2022. (Shutterstock)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke joined Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-CA) to introduce the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2023, a bold, inclusive, and humane vision for the future of the United States immigration system. For the announcement, Sánchez joined Democratic leaders to respond to H.R. 2, the Child Deportation Act, legislation proposed by House Republicans that would hurt immigrant and border communities and negatively impact the nation’s economy.
Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Nanette Barragán, Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chair Judy Chu (D-CA), and Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Yvette Clarke (D-NY) all spoke at the press conference.
[Click here for video coverage of the press conference]
The legislation would equip the country to responsibly manage the border with smart and effective investments, address the root causes of migration that force people to leave Central America, and restore the United States’ commitment to human rights.
The bill would provide millions of hardworking, undocumented immigrants with a pathway to earned citizenship, including Dreamers, Temporary Protective Status (TPS) recipients, and essential workers who have made enormous sacrifices during the pandemic. It would also prioritize family reunification and keeping families together and bolster the country’s long-term economic growth.
“Immigrants, regardless of status, contribute billions every year in taxes and form a critical part of the American economy. Still, many can’t access the vital safety provisions migrant communities rely on to survive and thrive. That’s why I’m proud to support the U.S. Citizenship Act – legislation that aligns with our vision for fixing America’s broken and outdated immigration system, once and for all,” said Congresswoman Clarke. “Only Congress can provide immigrants with a path to citizenship, and it’s past time we create a roadmap for citizenship for the people who already live and work in America, including Dreamers, as well as modernize the employment and family visa systems. Those who fled persecution and violence deserve a fair process from America. We have an opportunity to level the playing field in the labor market, boost our economy, and more. And that work begins with the U.S. Citizenship Act.”
“As the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, I am honored to introduce the U.S. Citizenship Act—a bold, transformative framework that will help fix our broken immigration system. The U.S. Citizenship Act will help us grow our economy, make our borders safer and more secure, and deliver a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants already living and working here,” said Congresswoman Sánchez. “Meanwhile, House Republicans are pushing a bill that neglects the people behind immigration policy. The Child Deportation Act embraces the same failed, xenophobic policies that promise harsh enforcement and nothing more. It is not a real solution. Instead, the U.S. Citizenship Act is built on a fundamental truth: we can have safe, secure borders and policies that reflect our values as a nation of immigrants.”
“House Democrats are ready – and have been ready – to invest in a secure border and deliver real immigration reform,” said Chairman Aguilar. “What Republicans are bringing onto the floor this week is not substantive—it’s extreme and recycles the same failed policies from the prior Administration that did nothing to help our situation at the southern border. That’s why we are so proud to join Congresswoman Sánchez in reintroducing the U.S. Citizenship Act to build off our investments in safety and personnel at the border, open more lawful pathways for citizenship and address the root causes of migration. Our legislation would strengthen our labor market and add stability to the economy. This is the best path forward to deliver true, comprehensive immigration reform.”
“I’m thrilled to support this comprehensive, thoughtful, solutions-based piece of legislation,” said Congresswoman Escobar. “I want to thank Congresswoman Sánchez for her leadership. The best way to ensure that our country addresses what’s occurring in border communities like my own is by offering legal pathways. I’m eager to work on this bill and I hope our Republican colleagues will join us in this effort to modernize our outdated laws.”
“The U.S. Citizenship Act is the framework we need to modernize and reform our broken immigration system, and I am especially proud that it includes provisions from three bills I have championed for years—the Reuniting Families Act, the NO BAN Act, and the Power Act,” said CAPAC Chair Chu. “This week, extremist MAGA Republicans are trying to advance an immigration proposal that would decimate our asylum system and humanitarian protections, put more children and families in detention, cause chaos at our borders, and weaken our economy. In stark contrast, the U.S. Citizenship Act recognizes that a robust, humane, and efficient immigration system makes America stronger, and it would alleviate the humanitarian crisis at the southern border by addressing the root causes of migration and providing resources to humanely and efficiently process children and families who seek asylum here.”
“The U.S. Citizenship Act is the immigration reform that our country needs, especially at a time when our asylum system is under attack by Republicans,” said CHC Chair Barragán. “It is a starting point to build a modern immigration system that is humane and efficient, keeps the border secure, and helps keep our economy strong. I am proud to be an original cosponsor of this bill and as Chair, the CHC stands ready to do whatever it takes to pass comprehensive immigration reform, securing our border but also providing a pathway to citizenship to so many who have contributed to our society.”
“It is clear current immigration laws are not serving the best interests of the United States,” said Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a senior member of the House Immigration Subcommittee and former immigration lawyer. “My colleagues and I have worked on immigration reform bills, and many of those measures are included in the U.S. Citizenship Act. This is overdue, large-scale legislation that greatly benefits our country. I am proud to again support policies that live up to our country’s history as a nation of immigrants.”
The U.S. Citizenship Act establishes a moral and economic imperative and a vision of immigration reform that is expansive and inclusive:
Creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing Dreamers, TPS holders, and some farmworkers with an immediate path to citizenship, and providing all other undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and pay taxes with a five-year path to citizenship without fear of deportation.
Reforms the family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members, and increasing per-country caps for family-based immigration. It also eliminates discrimination facing LGBTQ+ families, provides protections for orphans, widows and children, and allows immigrants with approved family-sponsorship petitions to join family in the U.S. on a temporary basis while they wait for green cards to become available.
Grows our economy by making changes to the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, making it easier for STEM advanced degree holders from U.S. universities to stay, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system. The bill also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.
Increases funding for immigrant integration initiatives and supports state and local governments, NGOs, and other community organizations that conduct inclusion programs, provide English language assistance, and make available naturalization resources to immigrant communities.
Protects workers from exploitation and improves the employment verification process by requiring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Labor to establish a commission involving labor, employer, and civil rights organizations to help improve the employment verification process and granting workers who suffer serious labor violations greater access to U visa relief. The bill also strengthens wage protections for farm workers and increases penalties for violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by eliminating the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, reducing asylum application backlogs, increasing protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.
The legislation also addresses the root causes of migration and prioritizes U.S. national security:
Addresses the root causes of migration from Central America by funding the President’s four-year plan to increase assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras conditioned on their ability to reduce the corruption, violence, poverty, and famine that now causes people to flee.
Creates safe and legal channels for people to seek protection, so they can apply for legal status in Central America instead of making the dangerous journey north. The bill also re-institutes the Central American Minors program to reunite children with U.S. relatives and creates a Central American Family Reunification Parole Program to more quickly unite families with approved family sponsorship petitions.
Cracks down on bad actors by enhancing the ability to prosecute individuals involved in smuggling, narcotics and trafficking networks who are responsible for drugs flowing into our country and the exploitation of migrants. It will also expand transnational anti-gang task forces in Central America.
Improves the immigration courts and protects vulnerable individuals by expanding family case management programs, reducing immigration court backlogs, expanding training for immigration judges, and improving technology for immigration courts. It also restores fairness and balance to our immigration system by providing judges and adjudicators with discretion to review cases and grant relief to deserving individuals, and also gives funding for school districts educating unaccompanied children.
Modernizes and manages the border effectively through the use of technology that enhances our ability to detect contraband and counter transnational criminal networks since illicit drugs are most likely to be smuggled through legal ports of entry. It also authorizes and provides funding for plans to improve infrastructure at ports of entry to enhance the ability to process asylum seekers and detect, interdict, disrupt and prevent narcotics from entering the United States.
Protects border communities by providing for additional rescue beacons to prevent needless deaths along the border, requiring agent training and oversight to investigate criminal and administrative misconduct, and requiring department-wide policies governing the use of force. It also authorizes and provides funding for DHS, in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and nongovernmental experts, to develop guidelines and protocols for standards of care for individuals, families, and children in CBP custody.
In addition to Congresswoman Clarke, the legislation is cosponsored by 100 members of the House of Representatives, including: Reps. Linda T. Sánchez (Ca-38), Zoe Lofgren (CA-13), Judy Chu (CA-28), Nydia Velasquez (NY-07), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Nikema Williams (GA-05), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Brad Sherman (CA-32), Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Lou Correa (CA-46), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Grace Napolitano (CA-31), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Katie Porter (CA-47), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Grace Meng (NY-06), Henry C. Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Jim McGovern (MA-02), Jim Costa (CA-21), Sean Casten (IL-06), Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05), Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06), John B. Larson (CT-01), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Andre Carson (IN-07), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Ted W. Lieu (CA-36), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Darren Soto (FL-09), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Raul Ruiz (CA-25), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Stacey E. Plaskett (VI), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Mike Thompson (CA-04), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Eric Swalwell (CA-14), Doris Matsui (CA-07), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Betty McCollum (MN-04), Kathy Castor (FL-14), David Trone (MD-06), Paul Tonko (NY-20), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (MP), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), John Garamendi (CA-08), Troy A. Carter, Sr. (LA-02), Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Alma Adams (NC-12), Adam Smith (WA-09), Mark Takano (CA-39), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Don Beyer Jr. (VA-08), Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Joseph D. Morelle (NY-25), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Teresa Leger Fernandez (NM-03), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Pete Aguilar (CA-33), Katherine Clark (MA-05), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Adam B. Schiff (CA-30), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), and Tony Cárdenas (CA-29).
Click here for the full text of the U.S. Citizenship Act.