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Half a million immigrants could eventually get US citizenship under a sweeping new plan from Biden

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Half a million immigrants could eventually get US citizenship under a sweeping new plan from Biden
News

News

Half a million immigrants could eventually get US citizenship under a sweeping new plan from Biden

2024-06-19 07:17 Last Updated At:07:21

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden ordered expansive election-year action Tuesday to offer potential citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants without legal status in the U.S., aiming to balance his recent aggressive crackdown on the southern border that enraged advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.

The president announced that his administration will, in the coming months, allow certain U.S. citizens' spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country. The action by Biden, a Democrat, could affect upwards of half a million immigrants, according to senior administration officials.

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President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden ordered expansive election-year action Tuesday to offer potential citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants without legal status in the U.S., aiming to balance his recent aggressive crackdown on the southern border that enraged advocates and many Democratic lawmakers.

Javier Quiroz Castro smiles after introducing President Joe Biden at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro smiles after introducing President Joe Biden at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

First lady Jill Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

First lady Jill Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro gives a hug to President Joe Biden after introducing him at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro gives a hug to President Joe Biden after introducing him at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden turns to the others on the dais after speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden turns to the others on the dais after speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden listens as he meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

President Joe Biden listens as he meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

“The Statue of Liberty is not some relic of American history. It still stands for who we are," Biden said from a crowded East Room at the White House, filled with advocates, congressional Democrats and immigrants who would be eligible for the program. “But I also refuse to believe that for us to continue to be America that embraces immigration, we have to give up securing our border. They’re false choices.”

Biden’s action, which amounts to the most expansive federal protection for immigrants in over a decade, sets up a significant political contrast with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose hardline stance on immigration includes a push for mass deportations and rhetoric casting migrants as dangerous criminals “poisoning the blood” of America.

On Tuesday, Biden accused “my predecessor” of preying on fears about immigrants as he chastised Trump administration moves, such as a zero-tolerance policy at the southern border that led to the separation of families. But Trump has leaned into his own policies as Biden has faced disapproval of his handling of immigration throughout his presidency. At a rally in Racine, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, Trump proclaimed, “When I’m reelected, Joe Biden’s illegal amnesty plan will be ripped up and thrown out on the very first day that we’re back in office.”

Because the shadow of a second Trump administration looms over Biden’s new policy, Tuesday’s actions will set off a months-long sprint by Latino organizations to get as many people to apply for the program as possible before next January.

To qualify for Biden's actions, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen, both as of Monday. If a qualifying immigrant’s application is approved, he or she would have three years to apply for a green card and receive a temporary work permit and be shielded from deportation in the meantime.

About 50,000 noncitizen children with parents who are married to U.S. citizen could also potentially qualify for the process, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. There is no requirement on how long the couple must have been married, but no one becomes eligible after Monday. That means immigrants who reach that 10-year mark after Monday will not qualify for the program, according to the officials.

Senior administration officials said they anticipate the process will be open for applications by the end of the summer. Fees to apply have yet to be determined.

Biden formally unveiled his plans at a Tuesday event at the White House, which also marked the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a popular Obama-era directive that offered deportation protections and temporary work permits for young immigrants who lack legal status.

The announcement was welcome news to families with mixed immigration status, such as Antonio and Brenda Valle in Los Angeles. They have been married for nearly 12 years and have two sons who are U.S. citizens, but they have lived with the worry every two years that Brenda Valle's status as a DACA recipient will not be renewed.

“We can start planning more long-term, for the future, instead of what we can do for the next two years,” she said.

Foday Turay was among those invited to the White House Tuesday for the announcement. He came to the U.S. when he was 10 years old from Sierra Leone, and is now a father to a young son and married to a third-generation U.S. citizen. Although he’s enrolled in DACA and working as an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, his status doesn’t provide relief from the constant worry of deportation.

“My wife is tremendously impacted by this,” Turay said Tuesday before the ceremony. "You know, every day she talks to me about what’s going to happen. What if I get deported? You know, how are we going to raise our son? What country are we going to raise him?”

Republicans were making their own sharp contrasts with Biden's plan. In a likely preview of GOP campaign ads, Rep. Richard Hudson, chair of House Republicans' campaign arm, called the Biden policy a “mass amnesty plan.” Other Republicans, such as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, anticipated that this latest directive would be struck down by the courts.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who is under consideration to be Trump’s pick for vice president, forcefully advocated for legislation in 2012 that would have offered legal status to young immigrants, but on Tuesday he said “the world is different” now because immigration numbers have risen.

Tuesday’s announcement came two weeks after Biden unveiled a sweeping crackdown at the U.S.-Mexico border that effectively halted asylum claims for those arriving between officially designated ports of entry. Immigrant-rights groups have sued the Biden administration over that directive, which a senior administration official said Monday had led to fewer border encounters between ports.

Biden's allies believe that the approach he is taking with his twin actions on immigration this month will resonate with voters.

“The only party that is being serious about border security is the Democrats. The only party that’s being thoughtful and compassionate about what to do with people who are living in the shadows are the Democrats,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who helped author a bipartisan border bill earlier this year. “The Republican Party has decided to take a walk on border security.”

Among advocates, Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, said Biden’s announcement would energize Latino communities to get out and support him.

“This is what our communities have needed to rally behind President Biden for reelection,” he said.

Biden also announced new regulations that will allow certain DACA beneficiaries and other young immigrants to more easily qualify for long-established work visas. That would allow qualifying immigrants to have protection that is sturdier than the work permits offered by DACA, which is currently facing legal challenges and is no longer taking new applications.

The power that Biden is invoking with his Tuesday announcement for spouses is not a novel one. The policy would expand on authority used by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to allow “parole in place” for family members of military members, said Andrea Flores, a former policy adviser in the Obama and Biden administrations who is now a vice president at FWD.us, an immigration advocacy organization.

The parole-in-place process allows qualifying immigrants to get on the path to U.S. permanent residency without leaving the country, removing a common barrier for those without legal status but married to Americans. Flores called it “the biggest win for the immigrant rights movement since the announcement of DACA 12 years ago.”

The same progressives who were infuriated with Biden’s asylum order praised the president on Tuesday. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, commended Biden and said the actions would help keep American families together.

“Many Americans would be shocked to hear that when a U.S. citizen marries an undocumented person, their spouse is not automatically eligible for citizenship,” she said. ”Imagine loving someone, marrying them, and then still continuing to fear you would be separated from them."

Associated Press writers Christine Fernando in Racine, Wis., Valerie Gonzalez in McAllen, Texas, and Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro smiles after introducing President Joe Biden at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro smiles after introducing President Joe Biden at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

First lady Jill Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

First lady Jill Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden speaks during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro gives a hug to President Joe Biden after introducing him at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Javier Quiroz Castro gives a hug to President Joe Biden after introducing him at an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, June 18, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden turns to the others on the dais after speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden turns to the others on the dais after speaking during an event marking the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Joe Biden listens as he meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

President Joe Biden listens as he meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Over the past decade, Russia has seen a sharp increase in treason and espionage cases.

Lawyers and experts say prosecutions for these high crimes started to grow after 2014 — the year that Russia illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. That’s also when Moscow backed a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The number of treason and espionage cases in Russia really spiked after the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022, and President Vladimir Putin urged the security services to “harshly suppress the actions of foreign intelligence services (and) promptly identify traitors, spies and saboteurs.” The crackdown has ensnared scientists and journalists, as well as ordinary citizens.

A look at some treason cases prosecuted in Russia in recent years:

In April 2008, bakery worker Oksana Sevastidi saw military equipment on the railway near Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort where she lived. She texted a friend who lived in neighboring Georgia about it. Weeks later, in August, the two countries fought a brief war, which ended with Moscow recognizing South Ossetia and another Georgian province, Abkhazia, as independent states and bolstering its military presence there.

Sevastidi was arrested in 2015, stemming from her text messages, and convicted of treason the following year. The case made national headlines after Ivan Pavlov and Evgeny Smirnov, prominent lawyers specializing in treason cases, took it on in 2016. That same year, Pavlov’s team revealed that several other Sochi women were convicted of treason in eerily similar cases.

President Vladimir Putin was asked about Sevastidi at his annual news conference in December 2016. He called her sentence “harsh” and promised to look into it, saying that “she wrote what she saw” in her texts and that it didn’t constitute a state secret. In 2017, Putin pardoned Sevastidi and two other women.

Ivan Safronov, a former journalist who went on to work for the Russian space agency Roscosmos, was arrested in 2020 and accused of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national. In September 2022, a court in Moscow convicted him of treason and sentenced him to 22 years in prison.

Safronov rose to prominence as a military affairs reporter for Kommersant, a leading business newspaper. He vehemently rejected the charges against him, arguing that he collected all the information from open sources as part of his journalistic work and did nothing illegal.

Colleagues denounced the verdict as unfounded and pushed for Safronov’s release, suggesting authorities may have wanted to punish him for his reporting about military and space incidents and arms deals.

His fiancee, Ksenia Mironova, told The Associated Press that she believes such treason cases, which are investigated in secret with trials held behind closed doors, are convenient for law enforcement because their accusations can go unchallenged:

“They don’t have to explain anything to anyone at all. Not that they bother anyway. … But (with open trials), there is still a chance that some unfortunate journalists will come and write something. With treason, the case is closed, and they can just concoct something, and that’s it,” said Mironova, who also is a journalist and has reported on the rise of treason prosecutions.

Valery Golubkin, now 71, was a physicist specializing in aerodynamics when he was arrested in 2021 and convicted of treason in June 2023. He was sentenced to 12 years in a maximum-security prison.

According to his lawyers, the authorities accused Golubkin of sharing state secrets with a foreign country. The scientist and his defense team argued that he merely submitted research reports on an international project of a hypersonic civilian aircraft that his state-run institute was involved in.

The reports didn’t contain state secrets and were vetted in accordance with regulations before they were sent abroad, according to lawyer Smirnov.

In a letter from behind bars to the Russian news outlet RBK in 2021, Golubkin said the project in question was approved by the Trade Ministry, and that the charges against him are based on the testimony of his supervisor, Anatoly Gubanov, who was arrested several months before Golubkin.

Gubanov, 66, also was convicted of treason and sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2023.

Lawyers for Golubkin appealed his verdict and lost. In April 2024, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling on the appeal and ordered another review of it, but in the end, the original sentence was upheld.

His daughter, Lyudmila Golubkina, told AP that neither the family nor Golubkin have had high expectations after the Supreme Court ruling, and they now hope he can be released on parole after serving two-thirds of his sentence.

“When a person has something to live for, a goal, it helps them to overcome everything,” she said. “I hope we will still get to see him a free man.”

Igor Pokusin, a 62-year-old retired pilot who was born in Ukraine, was arrested in the southern Siberian city of Abakan, for protesting Russia's 2022 invasion of his native land. He was convicted of vandalism and sentenced to six months of parole-like restrictions.

He later was arrested again on the more serious charge of “preparing for treason,” according to the First Department, a rights group that investigates treason cases.

The charges against him stemmed from his phone calls to relatives and friends in which he mulled moving to Ukraine and volunteering as a pilot there to ferry the wounded or deliver humanitarian aid, according to the rights group and media reports.

In January 2024, Pokusin was convicted of the “preparing for treason” charge and sentenced to eight years in prison. The First Department said he died behind bars in June.

Advocates from Memorial, Russia’s oldest and most prominent human rights group, have declared Pokusin, Sevastidi, Safronov and a number of others accused of treason to be designated as political prisoners.

FILE - In this photo released by the Moscow City Court Press Service, Valery Golubkin, a physicist specializing in aerodynamics, stands in a defendant’s cage in court in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, June 26, 2023. Golubkin, 71, was arrested in 2021 and convicted of treason in 2023 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing state secrets abroad, but he and his lawyers insisted that he merely submitted research reports on an international project that didn’t contain any state secrets and were cleared for submission. (Moscow City Court Press Service via AP, File)

FILE - In this photo released by the Moscow City Court Press Service, Valery Golubkin, a physicist specializing in aerodynamics, stands in a defendant’s cage in court in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, June 26, 2023. Golubkin, 71, was arrested in 2021 and convicted of treason in 2023 and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing state secrets abroad, but he and his lawyers insisted that he merely submitted research reports on an international project that didn’t contain any state secrets and were cleared for submission. (Moscow City Court Press Service via AP, File)

FILE - Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's state space agency, stands in a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's state space agency, stands in a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, on Thursday, July 16, 2020. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's state space agency, greets journalists while standing in a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, with two Federal Security Service officers sitting nearby. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Ivan Safronov, an adviser to the director of Russia's state space agency, greets journalists while standing in a defendant’s cage in a courtroom in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, with two Federal Security Service officers sitting nearby. Safronov, a former military affairs journalist, was convicted of treason and sentenced to 22 years in prison. Authorities accused him of passing military secrets to Czech intelligence and a German national, which he denied. The case has been widely viewed as retaliation for his reporting. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

FILE - Oksana Sevastidi with her lawyers Evgeny Smirnov, right, and Ivan Pavlov, awaits a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Sevastidi, a bakery worker in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was convicted of treason and sentenced to seven years in prison after she sent a text message to a friend in neighboring Georgia about seeing military equipment carried on a nearby railway prior to Russia’s brief war in 2008 with its neighbor. President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in 2017. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Oksana Sevastidi with her lawyers Evgeny Smirnov, right, and Ivan Pavlov, awaits a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Sevastidi, a bakery worker in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was convicted of treason and sentenced to seven years in prison after she sent a text message to a friend in neighboring Georgia about seeing military equipment carried on a nearby railway prior to Russia’s brief war in 2008 with its neighbor. President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in 2017. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Oksana Sevastidi leaves Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, March 12, 2017. Sevastidi, a bakery worker in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was convicted of treason and sentenced to seven years in prison after she sent a text message to a friend in neighboring Georgia about seeing military equipment carried on a nearby railway prior to Russia’s brief war in 2008 with its neighbor. President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in 2017. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin, File)

FILE - Oksana Sevastidi leaves Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, March 12, 2017. Sevastidi, a bakery worker in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, was convicted of treason and sentenced to seven years in prison after she sent a text message to a friend in neighboring Georgia about seeing military equipment carried on a nearby railway prior to Russia’s brief war in 2008 with its neighbor. President Vladimir Putin pardoned her in 2017. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin, File)

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