The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports the bipartisan agreement announced in the Senate that would address a number of pressing national security issues. President Biden has repeatedly said he is willing to work in a bipartisan way to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system. From his first day in office, he has called on Congress to act and over the course of several months, his administration has worked with a bipartisan group of Senators on important reforms and necessary funding.
This agreement, if passed into law, would be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve had in decades. It will make our country safer, make our border more secure, and treat people fairly and humanely while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation. This bipartisan national security agreement would also advance our national security interests by continuing our support for the people of Ukraine and Israel as they defend themselves against tyranny and terrorism while also providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by conflicts around the world. The Biden-Harris Administration calls on Congress to not delay and immediately pass the bipartisan national security agreement.
Provides Temporary Emergency Authority for the President to Shut Down the Border When the System is Overwhelmed
- Establishes a new temporary authority, the “Border Emergency Authority,” that allows the President and Secretary of Homeland Security to temporarily prohibit individuals from seeking asylum, with limited exceptions, when the Southwest Border is overwhelmed. The authority preserves access to other protections, consistent with our international obligations, and will sunset after three years.
- Importantly, this authority is to be used when the number of migrants encountered at the border reaches very high levels – levels that strain the U.S. government’s ability to process migrants. Additionally, the authority is limited to a set number of days each calendar year – in the third year of implementation the authority may only be exercised for half of a given calendar year.
- The United States is a country of refuge for those fleeing persecution. For that reason, the legislation requires asylum access be preserved for a minimum number of individuals per day, limited to those using a safe and orderly process at ports of entry, when the authority is invoked.
Expedites Access to Work Authorization for Hundreds of Thousands of Migrants
- Ensures that those who are here and qualify are able to get to work faster. It provides work authorization to asylum seekers once they receive a positive protection screening determination. This will allow asylum seekers to begin to support themselves and their families in the United States much earlier than the current 180-day statutorily required waiting period, which only begins after an individual submits an asylum application. This will also reduce the resource strain on our cities and states who have been supporting asylum seekers during this existing waiting period.
- This bill provides work authorization to approximately 25,000 K-1, K-2, and K-3 nonimmigrant visa holders (fiancé or spouse and children of U.S. citizens) per year, and about 100,000 H-4 spouses and children of certain H-1B nonimmigrant visa holders who have completed immigrant petitions (temporary skilled workers) per year, so they no longer have to apply and wait for approval before they can begin working in the United States.
Establishes an Efficient and Fair Process for Consideration of Asylum and other Protection Claims by those arriving at our Southwest Border
- Today, the process to get to a final decision on a migrant’s asylum claim can take 5-7 years. That is far too long. Once fully implemented, this bipartisan agreement would – for the first time – give the Administration the authority and resources to reduce that process to 6 months. This gets people quick decisions on their asylum claims rather than leaving them and their families in limbo for years.
- The agreement also for the first time gives Asylum Officers the authority to grant a claim at the protection screening stage if the case is clear and convincing, thereby reducing the strain on the asylum system.
Recalibrates the Asylum Screening Process
- Moves consideration of statutory bars to asylum eligibility, such as criminal convictions, into the screening stage. This will ensure that those who pose a public safety or national security risk are removed as quickly in the process as possible rather than remaining in prolonged, costly detention prior to removal.
- Modifies the screening threshold for asylum from “significant possibility” to “reasonable possibility,” with the goal of making it more likely that those who are screened in to pursue protection claims are ultimately found to have a valid asylum claim. Currently, of all migrants screened in and allowed to go to the next phase, only roughly 20 percent are ultimately granted asylum.
Provides Critical Funding for Combatting Smuggling and Drug Trafficking, Border Security, and Asylum Processing
- Funds the installation of 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect fentanyl at our Southwest Border ports of entry.
- Over 1,500 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel including Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers.
- Over 4,300 new Asylum Officers and additional U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff to facilitate timely and fair decisions.
- 100 new immigration judge teams to help reduce the asylum caseload backlog and adjudicate cases more quickly.
- Shelter and critical services for newcomers in our cities and states.
- 1,200 new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel for functions including enforcement and deportations.
- More resources to fund transportation needs to enable increased removals.
- Support to partner nations hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, and funding to partner nations to ensure cooperation in accepting returns associated with the implementation of the Border Emergency Authority.
Strengthens Federal Law Against Fentanyl Trafficking
- Declares that international trafficking of fentanyl is a national emergency and gives the President authority to impose sanctions on any foreign person knowingly involved in significant trafficking of fentanyl by a transnational criminal organization.
- Allows for transfer of sanctioned persons’ forfeited property to forfeiture funds and authorizes Treasury to impose additional restrictions against sanctioned persons upon a determination that their transactions are of primary money laundering concern.
- Directs Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to issue guidance on filing suspicious transactions reports related to fentanyl trafficking by transnational criminal organizations.
Increases Lawful Pathways to Come to the United States
- For the first time in over 30 years, raises the cap on the number of immigrant visas available annually by adding an additional 250,000 immigrant visas over 5 years (50,000/year). 160,000 of these visas will be family-based, and the other 90,000 will be employment-based.
- These additional immigrant visas expand lawful pathways to the United States, prioritizing family reunification and reducing the time families have to spend apart, and get U.S. businesses access to additional workers.
- Establishes a faster pathway to permanent status for the approximately 76,000 Afghan allies who entered the United States under Operation Allies Welcome and their families.
Promotes Family Unity and Stability for Noncitizens
- Provides relief to over 250,000 individuals who came to the United States as children on their parents’ work visa. These individuals have resided lawfully in the United States since they were children and have established lives here in the U.S but have since “aged out” of continuing to receive lawful status through their parents and have no other means of lawfully remaining in the United States with their families. Noncitizens who lived lawfully in the United States as a dependent child of an employment-based nonimmigrant for at least 8 years before turning 21 will be eligible to remain temporarily in the United States with work authorization.
- In support of family unity, the bill makes clear that certain noncitizens can travel to the United States on a temporary visitor (B) visa to visit their family members.
Ensure the Humane and Fair Treatment of Those Seeking Asylum, Especially the Most Vulnerable
- Children should not be expected to represent themselves in a court – and this agreement will provide, for the first time, government-mandated and funded legal counsel for unaccompanied children age 13 or younger as they go through the process to seek asylum. The bill would also provide counsel to particularly vulnerable, mentally incompetent adults.
- Strengthens legal requirements that migrants always be provided with clear and accessible information about their rights, including their right to counsel.
- Mandates that only trained Asylum Officers are permitted to conduct protection screenings.
- Provides critically-needed military aid to help the people of Ukraine defend themselves against Russian aggression. Russia continues to launch aerial assaults on Ukrainian cities and is actively attacking Ukrainian forces.
- Invests in our defense industrial base, supporting American jobs across our country, and produce weapons and equipment that the United States can send Ukraine to help Ukraine’s military protect its people, defend against Russian attacks, and succeed on the battlefield.
- Enables the United States to continue to send economic assistance to Ukraine. Putin has made destroying Ukraine’s economy central to his war strategy and boosting Ukraine’s economy is essential to its survival. If Ukraine’s economy collapses, they will not be able to keep fighting. This aid will help Ukraine pay its first responders, import basic goods, and provide essential services to its population.
- Authorizes the United States to provide additional military aid to help Israel defend itself from Hamas, which committed horrific acts of terror on October 7th, and whose leaders have pledged to repeat the attacks of October 7th over and over again until Israel is annihilated.
- The aid in this agreement will also help Israel replenish its air defenses and ensure it is prepared for any future contingencies.
- This includes its defense against Iran and groups backed by Iran, including Hezbollah. The funding in this agreement is essential to supporting Israel’s short- and long-term defense needs against a broad array of immediate and future threats.
- Includes important humanitarian aid funding to help civilians in need around the world, whether it’s to address the spillover effects of Putin’s war and help Ukrainians who have been displaced by Russia’s invasion, or to help Palestinians in Gaza, where we are actively working to increase the flow of aid for Palestinian civilians who have nothing to do with Hamas.
- Provides resources to help our allies and partners in the region build the capabilities necessary to address threats from an increasingly assertive PRC and to meet emerging challenges. It is critically important that we maintain our focus on the Indo-Pacific and preserve peace and stability.