Biden Administration expands legal pathways for immigrant families, DACA recipients

June 26, 2024 /

On June 18, the Biden Administration created additional pathways for legal status and work authorization for spouses of U.S. citizens, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and other undocumented youth.

The administration will now enable undocumented immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens to qualify for parole and stay with their families as they apply for permanent residency.  They will now also be authorized to work in the U.S., enabling them to better provide for their families. 

“A lot of people assume that when you marry a U.S. citizen, you’re automatically able to apply for the green card, but people who arrive without inspection or have over 180 days of a lawful presence accrued, have to leave the country in order to apply,” stated Hannah Liu, a Policy Analyst for immigration and immigrant families with the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Liu went on to explain that the United States has mandatory bars to reentry in place that can last for years, causing long-term separation from children and spouses and sometimes permanent separation.

“Today’s announcement represents decades of hard work from immigrant communities, organizers, and advocates who are committed to ensuring the dignity, safety, and well-being of immigrant families across the country. Immigrants and their children, the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens, deserve the opportunity to live free from the fear of separation and thrive in the country they call home,” said Wendy Cervantes, Director of Immigration and Immigrant Families at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Some estimates show that there are more than one million undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens living in the United States and that more than five million children are living with at least one undocumented parent. 

Research finds that when children are separated from their parents or caregivers for an extended period, their development is hindered. Research also shows that children benefit when their families achieve stability and economic mobility gained through lawful status and work authorization. 

“Every child requires the love and support of a parent or caregiver to grow up healthy. Nearly half of California’s 9 million children are part of immigrant families, and 1 in 5 live in mixed-status families. We must do everything we can to preserve family unity and minimize or eliminate any harmful impacts on children in mixed-status families. This expansion of the federal parole-in-place policy is an important step forward toward making sure families stay together. We thank the Biden administration and urge them to continue its commitment to child well-being by working toward a pathway to permanent relief,” said The Children’s Partnership President Mayra E. Alvarez.

Biden’s additional pathways will also allow DACA recipients and other Dreamers a streamlined way to apply for work visas. Dreamers will now be eligible for work visas and a pathway to permanent status, enabling them to utilize their skills and degrees to pursue careers and contribute to the U.S. workforce. 

This policy alleviates the uncertainty faced by numerous DACA recipients, their families, and other undocumented youth previously excluded from the DACA program. Currently, there are more than a quarter million U.S. citizen children with at least one parent who has DACA.

“Expanding work authorization and permanent relief to spouses of U.S. citizens and Dreamers is a smart policy move that will promote better child outcomes and help build a brighter future for our country as a whole. We are grateful to the Biden Administration for taking this important step, and we urge them to consider all other administrative levers to provide relief to mixed-status families,” Wendy Cervantes also commented. 

However, on Friday, June 21, the Supreme Court ruled that U.S. citizens don’t have a constitutional right to guarantee their noncitizen spouse’s admittance into the country, putting Biden’s new order in jeopardy. 

Organizations like The Children’s Partnership and others in the Children Thrive Action Network applauded Biden’s steps, expressing the importance of keeping families together. 

“There’s a robust evidence base demonstrating that having a parent present in the household who is also healthy and well is vital to the optimal health, growth, and cognitive and socioemotional development of children, especially in early childhood. Our research demonstrates that if we care about children’s health, we must take care of parents’ health, too. For mixed-status families, this includes ensuring that the family unit is not broken apart. Policies that keep families intact, like expanded parole in place and the D-3 waiver program, are evidence-based child health interventions,” said Stephanie Ettinger De Cuba, PhD, MPH, Executive Director of Children’s HealthWatch.

To further showcase the detrimental effects of separation and deportation, the Center for Law and Social Policy published its report “Broken Hope: Deportation’s Harms and The Road Home.”


Victoria Rodgers

Victoria Rodgers is an editor and reporter for Kern Sol News. Born in Bakersfield, CA, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rockford University in Illinois. She can be reached at