Live Updates: Biden’s Immigration Plan Would Offer Path to Citizenship For Millions

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Congressional Democrats Introduce Eight-year Path to Citizenship

Democrats on Capitol Hill unveiled their immigration overhaul on Thursday that would expand worker visas in an effort to modernize the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans.

“That’s why we today, collectively, are introducing the U.S. Citizenship Act in the Senate and the House, legislation that brings to life President Biden’s plan to restore humanity and American values to our immigration system. It’s our vision. It’s our vision of what immigration reform should look like. And it’s a bill we can all be proud of. It will modernize our system, offer a path to citizenship for hardworking people in our communities, reunite families, increase opportunities for legal immigration and ensure America remains a powerhouse for innovation and a beacon of hope to refugees around the world. Our system is broken. We have 11 million undocumented people living, working and raising families in our communities without legal status. These are good and decent people who believe in the promise of America down to their bones. They did not come here for handouts. They came here for hard work. And that’s exactly what they do each and every day. They work really hard.” “Today, we have an administration and a president that understands that the success of our country is interwoven and linked to the success of our immigrant communities, and it is time that we finally put in place an immigration system that’s based on that reality. Immigrants are good for our communities, for our economy and for our country.”

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Democrats on Capitol Hill unveiled their immigration overhaul on Thursday that would expand worker visas in an effort to modernize the immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans.CreditCredit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

President Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill formally introduced his immigration overhaul in the House on Thursday morning, making good on his campaign promise to seek to modernize the nation’s immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans.

“We’re here today because last November 80 million Americans voted against Donald Trump and against everything he stood for,” Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said at a virtual news conference. “They voted to restore common sense, compassion, and competence in our government. And part of that mandate is fixing our immigration system, which is a cornerstone of Trump’s hateful horror show.”

The unveiling puts a spotlight on a high-profile and thorny political issue that Mr. Biden is hoping to address, despite the steep political challenges associated with moving immigration legislation in Congress.

It comes at a time when the president and Democratic lawmakers are already in the midst of another major legislative undertaking: passing another coronavirus relief package. A planned trip by Mr. Biden to visit a Pfizer vaccine manufacturing facility in Michigan on Thursday was postponed until Friday because of a winter storm in the Washington area.

Though Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan is all but certain to command attention on Capitol Hill in the near term, the introduction of the immigration overhaul provides a reminder that a number of daunting issues unrelated to the pandemic lie ahead as well.

Mr. Menendez and Representative Linda T. Sánchez, Democrat of California, unveiled the immigration legislation, which will be called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 and is based on a proposal Mr. Biden announced on his first day in office. The two lawmakers were joined by 10 of their colleagues for the announcement.

The centerpiece of the legislation is an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States as of Jan. 1. After passing background checks and paying taxes, they would be allowed to live and work in the United States for five years. After that, they could apply for a green card, giving them permanent status in the United States and the opportunity to win citizenship after three more years.

But the bill tries to make the most far-reaching changes in immigration law in more than three decades. It would sweep away restrictions on family-based immigration, making it easier for spouses and children to join their families already in the country. And it would expand worker visas to allow more foreigners to come to the United States for jobs.

Unlike previous efforts to overhaul immigration, the legislation does not include a large focus on increased border enforcement. Instead, the bill adds resources to process migrants legally at ports of entry and invests $4 billion over four years in distressed economies in the hopes of preventing people from fleeing to the United States because of security and economic crises.

Mr. Menendez acknowledged that it would be difficult to win the support of the 10 Republican senators needed to pass Mr. Biden’s legislation. The Senate is split 50-50 and Democrats will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

But Mr. Menendez rejected arguments by some immigration advocates that Congress should pursue more targeted bills that provide citizenship to smaller, more discrete groups of undocumented people.

“We will never win an argument that we don’t have the courage to make,” he said. “We will do the righteous thing and make our case for both inclusive and lasting immigration reform. And we have seen in poll after poll, the vast majority of Americans are standing with us.”

Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.




Women Leaving Work Force Is a ‘National Emergency,’ Harris Says

In a meeting with women leaders, Vice President Kamala Harris said high numbers of women being pushed from the work force by the pandemic can be largely addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan.

“Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully. So I believe, I think we all believe, this is a national emergency — women leaving the workforce in these numbers, it’s a national emergency, and it demands a national solution. We do believe that the American Rescue Plan is a very big part of the solution to this issue. And in many ways; one, it will get immediate relief to women workers, including $1,400 checks to those who need it. And at least $3,000 in tax credits to parents for each of their children. And the beauty of the significance of this is by doing that, we will lift up nearly half of the children who are living in poverty in our country. The American Rescue Plan will also provide funding to help schools safely reopen, and make a big investment in child care to help providers keep their doors open. And it will get America vaccinated. So simply put, the American Rescue Plan will help get women back to work.” “Women are not opting out of the workforce. They are being pushed by inadequate policies. So we have an opportunity not just to throw money at a problem, but to build that architecture for the future. Use this as a moment to address the serious inequities that have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.” “Do not underestimate the impacts from enhanced unemployment benefits, pandemic unemployment assistance and economic payments that have come directly into our families. They are a lifeline and we have to continue this.”

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In a meeting with women leaders, Vice President Kamala Harris said high numbers of women being pushed from the work force by the pandemic can be largely addressed by the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief plan.CreditCredit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Vice President Kamala Harris said on Thursday that the 2.5 million women who have left the work force since the beginning of the pandemic constituted a “national emergency,” one that she said could be addressed with the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.

“Our economy cannot fully recover unless women can participate fully,” Ms. Harris said on a video call held with several women’s advocacy groups and lawmakers, essentially reiterating the argument she made in a Washington Post op-ed published last week. “Women leaving the work force in these numbers is a national emergency which demands a national solution.”

According to Labor Department data, some 2.5 million women have left the American work force, compared with 1.8 million men. As part of its relief plan, the Biden administration has outlined several elements that officials say will ease the burden on unemployed and working women, including $3,000 in tax credits issued to families for each child, and a $40 billion investment in child care assistance, and an extension of unemployment benefits. Ms. Harris said it would “lift up nearly half of the children that are living in poverty” in the United States, a claim backed up by a Columbia University analysis of the plan.

The proposal has no Republican support in Congress, but Democrats aim to pass the plan using a fast track budgetary process, known as reconciliation, which would allow them to push it through the Senate with a simple majority. (Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, unveiled his own child tax credit proposal earlier this month, but it was promptly panned by his Republican colleagues.)

In her call on Thursday, Ms. Harris painted a dire picture of the reality that millions of women are facing as the pandemic continues to dig its teeth into American life.

“In one year,” Ms. Harris said, “the pandemic has put decades of the progress we have collectively made for women workers at risk.”

Childcare remains an issue for working mothers: Nearly 400,000 child care jobs have been lost since the outset of the pandemic, Ms. Harris said. The closings of small businesses and the loss of millions of jobs have created the “perfect storm” for women, and particularly for Black business owners, she added. “The longer we wait to act, the harder it will be to bring these millions of women back into the work force.”

The administration’s relief proposal would provide some $130 billion to assist in the reopening of K-12 schools, a major source of child care, but how and when to do so — and how to explain decision making to Americans — has proved to be a stumbling point for the president and his advisers.

The Biden administration has promised to reopen as many schools as possible within the first 100 days, a promise that is already under stress by teachers’ unions who want to be assured that safety measures will work before schools reopen. On Thursday, Ms. Harris kept her remarks on schools limited, saying the plan would “provide funding to help schools safely reopen.” On Wednesday, Ms. Harris said in an appearance on the “Today” show that “teachers should be a priority” to receive vaccinations.

As the pandemic drags on, the statistics for women are indeed bleak.

In a report published last year by researchers at the University of Arkansas and the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California, researchers and economists found that female employment began plummeting almost immediately once the virus took hold last spring. Since then, the report found, women have shouldered a heavier load than men when it comes to providing child care.

Non-college-educated women and women of color have been disproportionately affected. Another report, published last fall by the Brookings Institution, showed that nearly half of all working women have low-paying jobs. Those jobs are more likely to be held by Black or Latina women, and they are in sectors, including dining and travel, that are among the least likely to reach a degree of normalcy anytime soon.

“Women are not opting out of the work force,” Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said during the meeting with Ms. Harris, “they are being pushed by inadequate policies.”

When asked on Thursday afternoon if President Biden shared Ms. Harris’s view that a decline in women participating in the work force constituted a national emergency, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, did not directly answer, but she did say Mr. Biden was concerned with the issue.

“The president has conveyed, in many meetings I’ve been in, his concern about this directly,” Ms. Psaki said, “and I know he’s discussed it with the vice president as well.”

Senator Ted Cruz speaks to the media at the Cancun International Airport before boarding his plane back to the U.S. Cruz and his family left Houston for Cancún, Mexico as his home state was gripped in crisis from the icy storm.

As Texas was battered by an icy storm and widespread power losses that left millions of residents freezing and fearing for their safety, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas left the state on Wednesday and traveled to Mexico for a previously planned family vacation, according to a person with direct knowledge of the trip.

Photos of Mr. Cruz and his wife boarding a flight from Houston to Cancún, Mexico sparked a fierce outcry on social media late Wednesday. The person familiar with his trip, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Mr. Cruz’s personal travel, said the senator planned to return to Texas on Thursday.

Mr. Cruz’s office issued a statement on Thursday afternoon.

“With school canceled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon,” Mr. Cruz said, adding that, like millions of other Texans, his family had lost heat and power.

Mr. Cruz insisted that he and his staff had been “in constant communication” with state and local leaders during his brief Cancún trip. The Senate was in recess this week.

“This has been an infuriating week for Texans,” he said.

As Mr. Cruz left the country, his home state was gripped by crisis: millions of people without power, many without running water and a deep freeze so severe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been activated to send supplies. Gov. Greg Abbott declared that, “Every source of power that the state of Texas has has been compromised.”

While the city of Houston was gripped by the freezing weather, a member of Mr. Cruz’s staff contacted the Houston Police Department personnel at George Bush Intercontinental Airport on Wednesday afternoon requesting “assistance upon arrival,” according to Jodi Silva, a department spokeswoman.

Ms. Silva said they had “monitored his movements” before he departed. Ms. Silva said she did not have any information about Mr. Cruz’s potential return to the city on Thursday.

Mr. Cruz himself had posted updates throughout Wednesday on Twitter about the intensity of the winter storm from the National Weather Service. “Stay safe and please continue to follow the warnings and updates provided by state and local officials,” he wrote on Wednesday morning.

With Mr. Cruz’s office silent as the photos spread on social media, some spotted an “CRU, R.” on a public standby list for a 4:44 p.m. flight from Houston to Cancún on Wednesday. Those same initials briefly appeared on a standby list for a return flight on Thursday afternoon. Both eventually disappeared. Mr. Cruz’s formal full name is Rafael Edward Cruz.

Mr. Cruz’s decision to leave his state in the middle of a crisis was an especially confounding one for a politician who has already run for president once, in 2016, and widely seen as wanting to run again in 2024 or beyond.

Mr. Cruz, 50, narrowly won re-election in 2018 against Beto O’Rourke, a former representative, with less than 51 percent of the vote. In that race, Mr. Cruz aggressively touted his efforts in a past emergency, Hurricane Harvey. He is not up for re-election again until 2024.

Even before he skipped town, Mr. Cruz’s critics were already recirculating tweets he sent last summer criticizing California for being “unable to perform even basic functions of civilization” after the state’s governor asked residents to conserve electricity during a spate of deadly wildfires. Mr. Cruz lampooned California’s “failed energy policy” as the product of liberal excess.

Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see 100 or more deaths this week. “So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,” he said.

More recently, in December, Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic.

“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”

Donald F. McGahn II was President Donald J. Trump's White House counsel until late 2018.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

The White House and congressional Democrats are divided over a politically charged lawsuit that raises novel constitutional issues: the House’s long-running attempt to compel Donald J. Trump’s former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, to testify about Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia inquiry.

When Democrats only controlled one institution — the House — it was simpler for their leaders to unite behind subpoenaing Mr. McGahn. But those who now run the executive branch, especially President Biden’s White House lawyers, are hesitant about establishing a precedent that might be someday used to force them to testify before lawmakers about internal matters.

A glimpse of the disconnect became public late on Wednesday, when the Justice Department — which under Mr. Trump had been representing Mr. McGahn in fighting the lawsuit — asked an appeals court to delay arguments in the case scheduled for Tuesday in part because of the change in administrations.

“The new administration wishes to explore whether an accommodation might be available with respect to the Committee’s request,” the filing said. “Discussions among the relevant parties have begun, and the new administration believes the parties would benefit from additional time to pursue these discussions.”

But Douglas N. Letter, a lawyer for House Democrats — and, effectively, Speaker Nancy Pelosi — opposed that motion, urging the full Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to press forward without delay.

“We appreciate the Biden administration’s efforts to settle this case, and we have actively participated in those efforts,” Mr. Letter wrote. “But we do not believe that postponing the argument will improve the prospect of a settlement or serve the interests of judicial efficiency or fairness to the parties.”

House Democrats were frustrated that the Trump administration’s uncompromising approach and litigation strategy succeeded in running out the clock, preventing any testimony by Mr. McGahn before the 2020 election. In his motion, Mr. Letter raised doubts that any compromise involving Mr. Trump will be possible, warning that delay could further thwart Congress’s constitutional oversight powers.

The case centers on Mr. McGahn’s role as an important witness in the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, about efforts by Mr. Trump to obstruct the investigation. After the Justice Department made most of the report public, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Mr. McGahn to testify at an oversight hearing. When he refused to appear, on Mr. Trump’s instructions, the committee sued.

The Justice Department has argued that Mr. McGahn was “absolutely immune” from any compelled appearance before Congress to testify about his work duties. But in August of last year, the full District of Columbia Circuit rejected that theory. Justice Department lawyers under the Trump administration continued to fight the subpoena on other legal grounds, however, prompting the new round of arguments before the full court set for Tuesday.

Navajo Nation volunteers prepared to distribute drinking water to families in need outside Monument Valley Tribal Park in Arizona in the spring. 
Credit…Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

When President Biden introduced Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico as his pick for interior secretary, making her the first Native American to be selected for a cabinet position, he acknowledged the country’s long history of failing the land’s first citizens.

“The federal government has long broken promises to Native American tribes who have been on this land since time immemorial,” he said. “With her appointment, Congresswoman Haaland will help me strengthen the nation to nation relationship.”

But with Mr. Biden’s election and Ms. Haaland’s nomination, tribal communities are looking for more than vague pledges.

Angry over their treatment during the Trump administration, which oversaw a deeply flawed response to the pandemic on tribal lands and pursued other policies at odds with Native American priorities, they are now hopeful that Mr. Biden, who benefited from their enthusiastic support in battleground states like Arizona last year, will back a far-reaching agenda to address the poverty that has long ravaged their communities.

They are pushing to ensure that any infrastructure plan the Biden administration pursues includes substantial money to improve access to water and electricity and to improve roads and bridges. They want more funding for their woeful health care service. They want changes to federal land use policy to minimize environmental damage from energy projects. And they want a renewed commitment to improving their schools.

In more than a dozen interviews with tribal leaders, health officials and lawyers across the country, many expressed cautious optimism that the Biden administration will follow through on efforts to address 150 years of systematic failures and breaches of treaty agreements.

“The Trump administration left us out in the cold when it came to the pandemic — all the federal aid that came as a result of the stimulus act, and other acts, throughout this year were meant to try to help entities deal with the pandemic, but we were left out in the cold,” said Tim Davis, chairman of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana.

“There is so much we are going to have to do and we are hoping we will get that opportunity with the new administration,” Mr. Davis added.

From left, Jabir McKnight, Mike McQuerry and Remmington Belford, aides to members of Congress, were at work on Capitol Hill during the mob attack on Jan. 6.
Credit…Brandon Bell for The New York Times

Jabir McKnight woke up on the morning of Jan. 6 with an uneasy feeling.

As he walked that Wednesday to Capitol Hill, where he had always felt safe, images of white supremacist violence in Charleston, S.C., and Charlottesville, Va., began to race through his head.

Hours before the violent pro-Trump mob rampaged through the halls of Congress, leaving nearly 140 police officers injured and five people dead, Mr. McKnight recalled, he could not shake the sense that something very bad was about to happen.

“The writing was on the wall for this,” said Mr. McKnight, 23, who is the communications director for Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas.

Only a small percentage of congressional aides are Black. Since the attack, Mr. McKnight and others who were in nearby offices in the Capitol complex that day have been talking among themselves about how close the violence came to them, what it means to experience such a virulent expression of racism in what is supposed to be a citadel of liberty, and the suspicion they now feel toward other aides, members of Congress and random people they encounter as they go about their business on Capitol Hill.

“It makes the trauma worse,” Mr. McKnight said. “Because as you’re walking around, you don’t know who could have been involved with what.”

Symbols of racism and white supremacy were on full display at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Rioters paraded the Confederate battle flag through the halls. One man wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, while others flew the flag of the fictional country Kekistan, which mimics a Nazi war flag.

The staff members described feelings of fear about the physical threat and anger about the psychic damage done by the mob.

“I never though I’d see the Confederate flag walked through the halls of Congress,” said Mike McQuerry, 50, the communications director for Delegate Stacey Plaskett, Democrat of the Virgin Islands and an impeachment manager in the trial of former President Donald J. Trump. “As much as we think we’ve had progress, we haven’t progressed that much.”

After the siege, congressional aides have reported trouble sleeping and feeling anxious, claustrophobic, angry and depressed. Lawmakers have requested additional resources to support the mental health needs of employees in response to surging demand.

Despite what they experienced that day, Mr. McQuerry, who is from Detroit, said staff members felt an obligation to push on with work.

“There’s not that many of us that work up here,” he said of Black aides to members of Congress. “It’s affected us tremendously. We have to just push through. I think we deal with it every day. PTSD is really real.”

Ivanka Trump, former President Donald J. Trump’s eldest daughter, and her family permanently moved to Florida.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Ivanka Trump will not run for the U.S. Senate from Florida in 2022, according to people close to her as well as an aide to Senator Marco Rubio, who holds the seat.

Since the final days of former President Trump’s term in office, speculation has been growing that Ms. Trump, his eldest daughter, might try to run for statewide office in Florida, where she and her family have moved permanently. Such a bid would involve a primary challenge to a sitting Republican senator, Mr. Rubio, and a competitive general election.

“Marco did speak with Ivanka a few weeks ago,” said Nick Iacovella, a spokesman for Mr. Rubio. “Ivanka offered her support for Marco’s re-election. They had a great talk.”

A person close to Ms. Trump also confirmed the conversation, and said that a Senate run was never something she was seriously considering. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose private discussions, said that Mr. Rubio’s office had asked Ms. Trump to hold off on making clear she was not running until April, when they hoped to hold a joint event with her.

Mr. Iacovella, while not confirming that there was a request for Ms. Trump to delay speaking publicly, said there was a discussion of an event with her to highlight the work that she and Mr. Rubio have done on an expanded child tax credit that was part of the tax bill Mr. Trump pushed for early in his term.

In separate statements, the two Republicans heaped praise on each other. Ms. Trump described Mr. Rubio as a “good personal friend and I know he will continue to drive meaningful progress on issues we both care deeply about.” Mr. Rubio thanked her for her “friendship” and for work they did together while she worked in the White House.

The discussion of whether Ms. Trump would seek the Senate seat in the battleground state came as her sister-in-law, Lara Trump, had let it be known that she was thinking of running for the U.S. Senate from her native state of North Carolina. But people briefed on the discussions said that Lara Trump was also unlikely to run.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at the White house on Wednesday.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

As the United States resets under new leadership, Europe is charting its own course on Russia and China in ways that do not necessarily align with President Biden’s goals.

On Friday, Mr. Biden will address the Munich Security Conference, a gathering of leaders and diplomats from Europe and the United States that he has attended for decades. Speaking there two years ago, he lamented the damage the Trump administration had inflicted on Washington’s relationship with Europe’s major capitals and promised that the United States would again “shoulder our responsibility of leadership.”

The president’s remarks on Friday are sure to repeat that promise and spotlight his now-familiar call for a more unified Western front against the anti-democratic threats posed by Russia and China.

But if by “leadership” Mr. Biden means a return to the traditional American assumption — we decide and you follow — many Europeans feel that that world is gone. The continent has its own set of interests and ideas about how to manage the United States’ two main rivals.

China has long been a vital trade partner for Europe. While European leaders see Beijing as a rival and competitor, they hardly view it as an enemy. And Russia remains a nuclear-armed neighbor, however truculent, and has financial and emotional leverage of its own.

“Biden is signaling an incredibly hawkish approach to Russia, lumping it in with China, and defining a new global Cold War against authoritarianism,” said Jeremy Shapiro, the research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

That makes many European leaders nervous, he said. And other regional experts said they had seen fewer signs of overt enthusiasm from the Continent than Biden administration officials might have hoped for.

Bob Dole paying his respects to former President George H.W. Bush at the Capitol in 2018. Mr. Dole represented Kansas in the Senate for more than 25 years.
Credit…Erin Schaff for The New York Times

Bob Dole, the former senator and 1996 Republican presidential nominee, announced on Thursday that he had advanced lung cancer.

“Recently, I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer,” Mr. Dole said in a statement. “My first treatment will begin on Monday. While I certainly have some hurdles ahead, I also know that I join millions of Americans who face significant health challenges of their own.”

Mr. Dole, 97, represented Kansas in the Senate for more than 25 years, including 11 years as the chamber’s Republican leader. He gave up his position as majority leader to run for the White House in 1996, only to lose to President Bill Clinton by a large margin, 379 electoral votes to 159.

He has faced health challenges for decades, starting with a battlefield injury during World War II, in which he served as an Army second lieutenant. He was hit by machine-gun fire, which almost killed him and permanently limited his use of his right arm. He went on to support the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed in 1990, and later pushed for the United States to join the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Mr. Dole — the oldest living former presidential nominee or president, one year older than former President Jimmy Carter — disclosed his lung cancer diagnosis a day after the conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh died of the same disease.

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