President Biden announces plan that could grant citizenship to 500,000 immigrants

President Joe Biden issued a new immigration-related executive order. 

In an announcement made Tuesday, the order would streamline the process for undocumented spouses of citizens. 

It would also fast-track work visas for college graduates who are dreamers. 

The White House says this order will impact more than 500,000 families.

And while President Biden says this order comes after Congress failed to act, the timeliness of the announcement is being criticized. 

Two weeks after signing tougher asylum restrictions, Biden is pivoting on illegal immigration with two new executive actions.

"I’m uninterested with playing politics at the border," he said. "I am interested in fixing it."

The first executive action expedites the process for spouses of U.S. citizens to get legal status. 

"They stay in America but in the shadows with the fear of deportation," Biden said.

The White House says most of the qualifying spouses have lived in the U.S. for about 20 years.


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"With five months until the election, why? Why this announcement now?" FOX 4 Reporter Steven Dial asked White House Immigration Police Advisor Blas Nunez-Neto.

"Unfortunately, we have not been able to advance those measures in Congress due to Republican stonewalling," he said. "And so, the president is once again prepared and able to act on his own."

Nunez-Neto says this action will impact more than 500,000 American families. 

What's new is that Biden's executive action exempts applicants from having to leave the U.S. to complete the legalization process. 

"That process can take a number of years," said Nunez-Neto. "And so, of course, families don't want to separate. And this announcement is really about keeping American families together."

FASANO, ITALY - JUNE 13 (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

The second action by the president would expedite work visas for DACA recipients, those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and are now stuck in legal limbo. It targets college-educated people with job offers from American companies.

In this case, applicants would have to go back to their country of origin to complete the process for a work visa. 

"They will have to leave the United States in order to pursue these work visas," Nunez-Neto said. "But the state department and DHS will issue guidance to essentially help them be able to come back quickly." 

With these actions coming on the twelfth anniversary of DACA, the White House is preparing for legal challenges.

President Biden says his former boss, President Barack Obama, took similar action with military spouses.

"Steps I am taking today are overwhelmingly supported by the American people, no matter what the other team may say," Biden said.

The White House says DHS in the coming weeks will update its policies to fast-track these applications. 

Biden’s previous executive order on border security

The announcement on Tuesday comes after Biden unveiled a sweeping crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border earlier this month, which effectively halted asylum claims for those arriving between officially designated ports of entry. 

Details of his executive order include shutting down asylum processing along the border if illegal crossings average 2,500 per day – which was higher than the daily averages as of late. The restrictions go into effect until two weeks after the daily encounter numbers are at or below 1,500 per day between ports of entry, under a seven-day average. 

Once the order is in effect, migrants who arrive at the border but do not express fear of returning to their home countries will be subject to immediate removal from the United States, within a matter of days or even hours. 

Those migrants would face punishments that could include a five-year bar from reentering the U.S., as well as potential criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile, anyone who expresses that fear or intention to seek asylum will be screened by a U.S. asylum officer but at a higher standard than what is currently used. If they pass the screening, they can pursue more limited forms of humanitarian protection, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

Immigrant rights groups have sued the Biden administration over the directive.

The prospect of Biden taking executive action on border policy had been speculated about for months, particularly after a bipartisan deal collapsed in Congress in February

Arrests for illegal crossings hit record highs in December but fell by nearly half in early 2024 to one of the lowest months under Biden’s presidency. 

Immigration is one of the biggest issues in this year’s presidential election, with exit polls showing it was the top concern among many Republican voters in early primaries.

FOX Digital and The Associated Press contributed to this report.