Here! Enjoy All This Nice Policy Stuff We Got This Week!
In his first week, President Joe Biden has been doing a lot of very nice policy stuff, including reversing bad Trump policies and also doing some things that should have obviously been done before but for some reason were not. Things that even I — a terrifying, private-insurance-company-hating, leftist — think are good. Though now that I type that I realize that it is probably not a selling point for a lot of people. Let's put it this way! I think doing things is better than not doing things, and I want people to have lives that are less crappy than they currently are, and Biden is proposing some policies that will do that for some people. So yay.
One of those policy proposals is an immigration plan that would include a path to getting green cards for farm workers and then fast tracking them for citizenship.
An eight-year path to citizenship for millions of people who were living in the United States unlawfully on Jan. 1, 2021. They would be eligible to apply for a green card after five years in a temporary status if they pass background checks and pay their taxes, and could then apply for citizenship three years later.
Workers with H-2A visa program who have already spent 100 days of at least four of the last five years would immediately be eligible for green card status. Yay! This is extremely important from a labor standpoint, because without green card status, these workers are basically unable to leave abusive employers without getting deported — and that is a horrible situation for anyone to be in.
Additionally, the proposal also includes making agricultural workers eligible for overtime, which is a huge fucking deal.
When the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, two groups of workers were excluded from many of the protections therein: agricultural workers and domestic workers. These exceptions were rationalized in a lot of ways — that the work done by these two groups was substantively different from, say, the work done by people working in a factory — but one only need consider who was primarily doing this labor to get an idea of why there were such vast exceptions. (Racism. It was racism.) Farm owners have continued, throughout the last 80 years, to get a pass on labor laws, including having to pay their workers overtime. So this is a very long time coming.
And that's not all. Let's tell the people what they've won!
- Allows people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection, a group known as "Dreamers", who were brought to the United States illegally as children, farmworkers and people with Temporary Protected Status to immediately apply for a green card if they meet specific requirements. They would have a three-year path to citizenship.
- Permits certain immigrants who were deported during the Trump administration and had previously lived in the United States for three years to return to reunite with family or for other humanitarian reasons.
- Raises annual per-country limits on family-based immigration and eliminates them for employment visas.
- Exempts spouses and children of green card holders from employment-based immigration quotas, expanding the number of green cards available to employment-based immigrants.
- Scraps multi-year bars to re-entry for certain people who lived in the United States illegally and then left.
- Clears family-based and employment-based visa backlogs.
- Provides work permits to dependents of H-1B visa holders
- Authorizes regional processing centers in Central America to register and process people for refugee resettlement and other legal migration programs.
- Authorizes funding for legal counsel for vulnerable populations of migrants, such as children.
- Increases the number of immigration judges working in the court system.
- Eliminates the one-year filing deadline for asylum applications.
- Changes the word "alien" to "noncitizen" in U.S. immigration laws
These are all very good, very necessary changes.
In addition to the very good immigration proposal, there is also a whole lot of good in Biden's executive actions to provide relief to families who are struggling due to the pandemic. Kids are gonna get to eat, so that's nice.
For one! Families of children who get subsidized school lunches have been given Pandemic Electronic Banking Transfer cards to cover the cost of those meals — which comes to about $5.70 a day. Biden is asking the USDA to increase these benefits by 15%, "to more accurately reflect the cost of missing meals" and will also be making it easier for families to claim these benefits.
Also, under the new rules, approximately 12 million more people will qualify for increased SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) allotments. Additionally, changes will be made to the Thrifty Food Plan — which determines how much people get in SNAP benefits — so that families get the amount of money they need to have a healthy diet in today's economic climate.
Also too — people won't lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse a job they think will result in them getting COVID, which will be a huge relief. One of the scariest things about being on unemployment is that one wrong move could mean taking a really terrible job or losing your benefits. I've been there! It's not fun! If it weren't for one lady at unemployment willing to give me a break, I might have been stuck forever managing a hippie store at which one of the requirements was going to be appearing on a reality show (it never panned out) for for $10 an hour instead of writing nice things for you all day. I would smell like patchouli and you would all be so sad. Well, some of you.
Anyway! These things are all good and hopefully there will be more good coming — but that does not mean we all get to rest on our laurels, which doesn't sound very comfortable anyway. If we want good stuff, we have to be super annoying about it. This is now your open thread, so go ahead and talk amongst yourselves.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse