Biden poised to announce immigration relief for spouses of US citizens, sources say


By Ted Hesson and Mica Rosenberg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden could soon announce a new effort to allow immigrants in the U.S. illegally to obtain legal status if they are married to U.S. citizens, three sources said, an election-year move that could energize some liberal voters.

Biden is expected to unveil the effort as soon as Tuesday at a White House event, two of the sources said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal plans still subject to change.

Biden, a Democrat, is seeking a second term in the Nov. 5 election that will pit him against Republican challenger Donald Trump, an immigration hardliner.

Biden has grappled with record numbers of migrants caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally on his watch and recently rolled out a restrictive new asylum ban at the border to deter crossers.

Some fellow Democrats and immigrant advocates opposed the asylum ban and have called on Biden to protect long-term U.S residents who lack legal status, including spouses.

Reuters reported in April that the White House was considering ways to allow the spouses to obtain legal status.

White House spokesperson Angelo Fernandez Hernandez did not confirm any coming immigration relief, but said in a statement that Biden officials “remain committed to taking action to address our broken immigration system.”

Biden said in June 4 remarks on the asylum ban that in coming weeks he would “speak to how we can make our immigration system more fair and more just.”

Tuesday’s White House event will be tied to the anniversary of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The DACA program was launched by former President Barack Obama and then-Vice President Biden and currently grants deportation relief and work permits to 528,000 people brought to the U.S. as children.

The U.S. State Department also could roll out new guidance that says DACA recipients should be presumed eligible for non-immigrant visas if they leave the U.S., one of the sources said.

Representative Nanette Barragan, a Democrat and head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said she would attend the White House event and urged Biden to take action to protect spouses of U.S. citizens and DACA recipients.

Barragan said in an interview that Biden could contrast himself with Trump, who has vowed to launch the largest deportation effort in U.S. history.

“I think it could be significant for the lives of these people who are living in the shadows, who are married to American citizens and who are under threat of being removed from the country,” she said.

An estimated 1.1 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally are married to U.S. citizens, according to data by advocacy organization, but how many of those would be included in a possible Biden action remained unclear.

(Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and Mica Rosenberg in New York; Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)

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