Biden's Immigration Reform Bill Could Change Everything... Or Not Pass At All. Here's What You Need To Know.

By LAist Staff, LAist |

On Thursday, Democratic lawmakers unveiled sweeping legislation backed by President Biden that aims to dramatically reform the immigration system in the U.S.

At the center of the bill: An eight-year path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants who are living in the U.S. without legal status, along with other reforms that would affect the legal immigration process.

In Los Angeles, the implications are enormous and the questions are many. Who would be affected here, and how? And what needs to happen for a proposal like this to actually pass?

LAist/KPCC spoke with some of our most trusted immigration experts this week: Marissa Montes, the director of Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic; Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at UC Riverside Morrison; and Louis DeSipio, professor of political science and Chicano-Latino Studies at UC Irvine.


This bill doesn't have as many of the enforcement provisions that Republicans typically have insisted upon, Karthick Ramakrishnan told us (He's a professor of public policy and political science at UC Riverside).

That enforcment stuff, which was included in the 2013 bipartisan bill made a lot of immigrant advocates very uncomfortable. That bill, for instance, promised to crackdown on employers who hire workers with out authorization. It also had provisions for strengthening border security. But this bill is different.

"I think in this case, you're seeing the Democratic Party, both in Congress as well as in the White House, trying a different tack," Ramakrishnan explained. "Not loading up the bill with a lot of enforcement provisions...trying to keep it a little bit more clean this time."

Ramakrishnan warns though that this could change if Senators decide to amend the bill and add more enforcement provisions.


Ramakrishnan wrote an L.A. Times op-ed last week making a case for a more piecemeal approach to immigration reform.

His argument is that sometimes comprehensive reform becomes so complicated and so big that it's actually harder to pass.

"What we find instead, from states like California, New York, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, and so many others, is that if you continue to chip away at it, you can take it piece by piece incrementally, and really end up building immigration reform over a couple of decades," Ramakrishnan told us.

He says that's something you might not be able to achieve "when you try to cram everything into one bill."

It's possible that Biden's bill could fall victim to the too much, too big curse that Ramakrishnan is talking about.

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