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Immigrant families rejoice over Biden's expansive move toward citizenship, while some are left out

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Immigrant families rejoice over Biden's expansive move toward citizenship, while some are left out
News

News

Immigrant families rejoice over Biden's expansive move toward citizenship, while some are left out

2024-06-19 20:47 Last Updated At:20:50

HOUSTON (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of immigrants had reason to rejoice when President Joe Biden unveiled a highly expansive plan to extend legal status to spouses of U.S. citizens but, inevitably, some were left out.

Claudia Zúniga, 35, married in 2017, or 10 years after her husband came to the United States. He moved to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, after they wed, knowing that, by law, he had to live outside the country for years to gain legal status. “Our lives took a 180-degree turn,” she said.

Biden announced Tuesday that his administration will, in coming months, allow U.S. citizens' spouses without legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship without having to first depart the country for up to 10 years. About 500,000 immigrants may benefit, according to senior administration officials.

To qualify, an immigrant must have lived in the United States for 10 years and be married to a U.S. citizen, both as of Monday. Zúniga's husband is ineligible because he wasn't in the United States.

“Imagine, it would be a dream come true,” said Zúniga, who works part-time in her father's transportation business in Houston. “My husband could be with us. We could focus on the well-being of our children.”

Every immigration benefit — even those as sweeping as Biden's election-year offer — have cutoff dates and other eligibility requirements. In September, the Democratic president expanded temporary status for nearly 500,000 Venezuelans who were living in the United States on July 31, 2023. Those who had arrived a day later were out of luck.

The Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has shielded hundreds of thousands of people from deportation who came to the United States as young children and is popularly known as DACA, required applicants be in the United States on June 15, 2012 and have been in the country continuously for the previous five years.

About 1.1 million spouses in the country illegally are married to U.S. citizens, according to advocacy group FWD.us., meaning hundreds of thousands won't qualify because they were in the United States less than 10 years.

Immigration advocates were generally thrilled with the scope of Tuesday's announcement, just as Biden's critics called it a horribly misguided giveaway.

Angelica Martinez, 36, wiped away tears as she sat next to her children, ages 14 and 6 — watched Biden's announcement at the Houston office of FIEL, an immigrant advocacy group. A U.S. citizen since 2013, she described a flood of emotions, including regret for when her husband couldn't travel to Mexico for his mother's death five years ago.

“Sadness, joy all at the same time," said Martinez, whose husband came to Houston 18 years ago.

Brenda Valle of Los Angeles, whose husband has been a U.S. citizen since 2001 and, like her, was born in Mexico, has renewed her DACA permit every two years. “We can start planning more long-term, for the future, instead of what we can do for the next two years,” she said.

Magdalena Gutiérrez of Chicago, who has been married 22 years to a U.S. citizen and has three daughters who are U.S. citizens, said she had “a little more hope” after Biden’s announcement. Gutiérrez, 43, is eager to travel more across the United States without fearing an encounter with law enforcement that could lead to her being deported.

Allyson Batista, a retired Philadelphia teacher and U.S. citizen, married her Brazilian husband 20 years ago, recalled being told by lawyer that he could leave the country for 10 years or “remain in the shadows and wait for a change in the law.”

“Initially, when we got married, I was naive and thought, ‘OK, but I’m American. This isn’t going to be a problem. We’re going to fix this,’” Batista said. “I learned very early on that we were facing a pretty dire circumstance and that there would be no way for us to move forward in an immigration process successfully.”

The couple raised three children who are pursuing higher education. Batista is waiting for the details of how her husband can apply for a green card.

“I’m hopeful,” Batista said. “The next 60 days will really tell. But, obviously more than thrilled because every step forward is a step towards a final resolution for all kinds of immigrant families.”

About 50,000 noncitizen children with parents who are married to U.S. citizen could also potentially qualify, according to senior administration officials who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. Biden also announced new regulations that will allow some DACA beneficiaries and other young immigrants to more easily qualify for long-established work visas.

This story corrects that Batista’s husband is Brazilian, not Mexican.

Gonzalez reported from McAllen, Texas. Associated Press writers Stefanie Dazio in Los Angeles, Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed.

Antonio Valle, from right, two sons, Gohan and Seiya, and wife, Brenda, stand for a photo after an interview with The Associated Press in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The couple were both born in Mexico. Antonio Valle has been a U.S. citizen since 2001. Brenda Valle came to the U.S. with her family when she was 3 years old and will now be eligible for legal status under Biden's new plan. She is a DACA recipient and has worried every two years whether it would get renewed. Their sons are U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Antonio Valle, from right, two sons, Gohan and Seiya, and wife, Brenda, stand for a photo after an interview with The Associated Press in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. The couple were both born in Mexico. Antonio Valle has been a U.S. citizen since 2001. Brenda Valle came to the U.S. with her family when she was 3 years old and will now be eligible for legal status under Biden's new plan. She is a DACA recipient and has worried every two years whether it would get renewed. Their sons are U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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)

Antonio Valle, left, and wife, Brenda, stand for a photo after an interview with The Associated Press in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Both were born in Mexico. Antonio Valle has been a U.S. citizen since 2001. Brenda Valle came to the U.S. with her family when she was 3 years old and will now be eligible for legal status under Biden's new plan. She is a DACA recipient and has worried every two years whether it would get renewed. Their sons are U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Antonio Valle, left, and wife, Brenda, stand for a photo after an interview with The Associated Press in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. Both were born in Mexico. Antonio Valle has been a U.S. citizen since 2001. Brenda Valle came to the U.S. with her family when she was 3 years old and will now be eligible for legal status under Biden's new plan. She is a DACA recipient and has worried every two years whether it would get renewed. Their sons are U.S. citizens. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

A leading far-right figure in the Israeli government visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Thursday, a move that threatened cease-fire talks to end the 9-month-old war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s Public Security Minister, said he went to the contested compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of Israeli hostages in Gaza and to pressure Israel’s prime minister to continue with the military campaign in the territory.

Israeli negotiators were in Cairo on Wednesday to press ahead with cease-fire talks, as Israel and Hamas consider the latest proposal.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack sparked the war when militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducting about 250. Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 38,600 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Hamas' Oct. 7 attack sparked the war when militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducting about 250. Since then, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 38,600 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. It does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count.

Two international courts have accused Israel of war crimes and genocide – charges Israel denies. Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are crammed into squalid tent camps in central and southern Gaza. Israeli restrictions, fighting and the breakdown of law and order have limited humanitarian aid efforts, causing widespread hunger and sparking fears of famine.

Here’s the latest:

BEIRUT — Israeli drone strikes early Thursday in Lebanon killed at least one person, who was identified as Mohammad Hamed Jabbara, one of the leaders of the militant Sunni al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, or Islamic Group.

In a statement, the political and militant group said Jabbara was killed in a strike in the western Bekaa area in Lebanon not far from the Syrian border. The group gave no further details but Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the drone fired a rocket at him while he was driving a pickup truck.

The Israeli military described Jabara as a Hamas operative in Lebanon who helped coordinate Islamic Group attacks targeting northern Israel.

The armed wing of the Islamic Group, the Fajr Forces, has also attacked northern Israel alongside its allies, Hamas and the Lebanese group Hezbollah. Similarly to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the group’s founded was inspired by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Elsewhere in Lebanon, an Israeli drone struck a civilian vehicle in a village near the southern coastal city of Tyre. It’s unclear who was in the vehicle and whether they were killed or wounded.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the strikes, though it has acknowledged in previous instances that its attacks have targeted Hezbollah militants and allies.

Hezbollah launched attacks against Israel after the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Oct. 7 with the Hamas attack on southern Israel.

Since then, Israeli airstrikes on Lebanon have killed over 450 people, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also more than 80 civilians and non-combatants. On the Israeli side, 21 soldiers and 13 civilians have been killed since the war in Gaza began.

Tens of thousands of people on both sides of the tense Lebanon-Israel frontier have been displaced in the monthslong war.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s parliament extended a temporary law which allows the country to shut down foreign media outlets they consider a threat to Israel’s security. In a marathon session that lasted until early Thursday morning, the parliament gave final approval to extend the emergency law until Nov. 30.

Israeli officials used the new law on May 5 to close Qatar-based Al Jazeera within Israel, confiscating its equipment, banning its broadcasts and blocking its websites.

Under the law, Israel’s Communications Ministry also briefly seized AP broadcasting equipment from southern Israel after accusing it of violating a new media law by providing images to Al Jazeera. The government returned the equipment to AP several hours later.

A bill that would make the emergency legislation permanent is currently making its way through the Israeli parliament. The draft said a permanent bill is needed because Israel “has faced serious security threats since its establishment and is expected to continue to face them in the future, possibly even more severely.”

Critics say the measure passed earlier this year is undemocratic and a threat to press freedom.

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Overnight Israeli strikes Thursday in central Gaza killed at least 11 people, including women and children.

Early Thursday an Israeli strike hit a house in central Gaza, killing at least six people, while another strike later hit a car, killing at least three. The dead were taken to the Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where an Associated Press journalist counted the bodies.

Among the six killed in the early strike in Zawaida were two children and two women. The area struck is close to Deir al-Balah, where many Palestinians displaced from across the war-torn Gaza Strip have fled.

Meanwhile, Gaza’s Civil Defense organization said they pulled two dead bodies and seven wounded from the rubble following an Israeli airstrike in Bureij that hit a family house.

Israel’s military said it had targeted two commanders from the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, one from the group's naval forces and the other responsible for launches in the city of Shujaiya.

Destroyed buildings stand in the Gaza Strip during the sunset as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Destroyed buildings stand in the Gaza Strip during the sunset as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Relatives and friends of Israeli soldiers who were killed and of those who were kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack take part in a march in southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, demanding the creation of a committee of inquiry to investigate the events on that day. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Relatives and friends of Israeli soldiers who were killed and of those who were kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack take part in a march in southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, demanding the creation of a committee of inquiry to investigate the events on that day. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a session of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses lawmakers in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses lawmakers in the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

FILE - This image provided by the U.S. Army shows trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before arriving on the beach on the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2024. The U.S. military-built pier to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza is being dismantled and brought home, ending a mission that has been fraught with weather and security problems. (Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/U.S. Army via AP, File)

FILE - This image provided by the U.S. Army shows trucks loaded with humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates and the United States Agency for International Development cross the Trident Pier before arriving on the beach on the Gaza Strip, May 17, 2024. The U.S. military-built pier to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza is being dismantled and brought home, ending a mission that has been fraught with weather and security problems. (Staff Sgt. Malcolm Cohens-Ashley/U.S. Army via AP, File)

Palestinians pray next to the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at a hospital morgue in Deir al-Balah, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinians pray next to the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at a hospital morgue in Deir al-Balah, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Mahmoud Rayhan, who was displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, stands at a makeshift tent camp in Khan Younis, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are struggling to maintain their mental health with few resources and no safe places to recover after nine months of war. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Mahmoud Rayhan, who was displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, stands at a makeshift tent camp in Khan Younis, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are struggling to maintain their mental health with few resources and no safe places to recover after nine months of war. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

FILE - The image provided by U.S, Central Command, shows U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), U.S. Navy sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel Defense Forces placing the Trident Pier on the coast of Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024. The U.S. military-built pier to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza is being dismantled and brought home, ending a mission that has been fraught with weather and security problems. (U.S. Central Command via AP)

FILE - The image provided by U.S, Central Command, shows U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), U.S. Navy sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel Defense Forces placing the Trident Pier on the coast of Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024. The U.S. military-built pier to carry humanitarian aid to Gaza is being dismantled and brought home, ending a mission that has been fraught with weather and security problems. (U.S. Central Command via AP)

The sun sets behind the buildings in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The sun sets behind the buildings in the Gaza Strip as seen from southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Palestinian Mahmoud Mikdad holds the body of his 21-month-old child Yaman, killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at a hospital morgue in Deir al-Balah, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Palestinian Mahmoud Mikdad holds the body of his 21-month-old child Yaman, killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at a hospital morgue in Deir al-Balah, Tuesday, July 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Abdel Kareem Hana)

Relatives and friends of Israeli soldiers who were killed and of those who were kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack take part in a march in southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, demanding the creation of a committee of inquiry to investigate the events on that day. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Relatives and friends of Israeli soldiers who were killed and of those who were kidnapped during the Oct. 7 Hamas cross-border attack take part in a march in southern Israel, Wednesday, July 17, 2024, demanding the creation of a committee of inquiry to investigate the events on that day. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

The Latest | Israeli delegation arrives in Cairo for Gaza cease-fire talks

The Latest | Israeli delegation arrives in Cairo for Gaza cease-fire talks

The Latest | Israeli delegation arrives in Cairo for Gaza cease-fire talks

The Latest | Israeli delegation arrives in Cairo for Gaza cease-fire talks

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