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Biden announces protections for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens

Joe Biden is standing at a podium and waving. Kamala Harris and Kevin McCarthy are standing and clapping behind him. A large American Flag is hanging on the wall behind them.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AP Pool
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. He is joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif.

President Biden announced an executive order on June 18 that would protect half a million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens from deportation.

Under the new policy, undocumented spouses who have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years will be given a pathway to citizenship and the ability to work legally.

It will also extend a path to noncitizen minors and stepchildren of American citizens.

It is one of the most wide-ranging presidential actions to protect immigrants in more than a decade, said Andrea Masnata with Make the Road Nevada, a nonprofit organization that promotes justice for Latino immigrants.“

This is not only going to impact the spouses who are married to an undocumented immigrant, but it's also going to impact their children. We have over 50,000 children that have an undocumented parent. This is gonna change their lives forever,” Masnata said.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto applauded Biden’s action. “Those two actions that the administration has taken are important because at the end of the day, it is about keeping those families together, families that wanna contribute to our economy and pay taxes and families that wanna be a crucial part of our future here,” she said.

Marriage to an American citizen generally provides a path to U.S. citizenship. But people who crossed the border illegally must return to their home countries to process their green cards.

That means long separations from their spouses and families. The new policy allows families to remain in the country while they pursue legal status.

This new announcement comes two weeks after other executive actions that severely restrict asylum for most undocumented immigrants were announced.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.