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President Biden on Tuesday marked the 12th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by announcing new measures that will help recipients qualify more easily for long-established work visas. 

The president spoke at a White House event tied to the anniversary of DACA, which former President Obama and then-Vice President Biden launched in 2012. 

The aim of the program was to protect those who had entered the U.S. illegally as children from deportation and provide a pathway to citizenship.

Recipients, referred to as “Dreamers,” were able to request “consideration of deferred action” for a period of two years, which was subject to renewal.

OBAMA LEADING BIDEN OFF LA FUNDRAISER’S STAGE JUST LATEST EXAMPLE OF ALLIES DIRECTING PRESIDENT

After bashing Republicans for what he deemed inaction at the border – and appearing to freeze up when mentioning the Homeland Security secretary – Biden announced new measures “to clarify and speed up work visas and help people, including Dreamers” who have graduated from U.S. colleges and landed jobs in “high-demand, high-skilled professions.” 

“I want those who have been educated at U.S. colleges and universities to put their skills and knowledge to work here in America,” Biden said. “We want to keep building the strongest economy in the world with the best workforce in the world.” 

DEFEND DACA sign

The president said these steps build on other actions taken in support of Dreamers, “from defending Dreamers and the courts, and expressing and expanding access to health care for millions of Americans, under the Affordable Care Act, including for Dreamers.” 

Many companies who employ DACA recipients can apply for them to get a work visa, which is more stable and provides a pathway to permanent residence, Dan Berger, an immigration fellow at Cornell Law School, told the Associated Press.

Berger co-founded Path2Papers, an organization that helps Dreamers pursue work visas and other ways to get legal permanent residency.

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But to get a work visa, the DACA recipient must travel abroad, apply and get a waiver to reenter the U.S. Berger said that the waiver process is cumbersome and offers little guidance, so employers and DACA recipients aren’t eager to pursue it. 

“Having clear guidance and clear expectations is really helpful,” he said.

DACA protest DC

Biden’s new policy for DACA recipients is part of a broader election-year move by the Biden administration to offer a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants in the U.S. 

Another new measure announced Tuesday allows spouses living without legal status in the U.S. to apply for lawful permanent residence without leaving the U.S. and eventually get a path to citizenship. 

To be eligible, people must have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years, not pose a security threat and have been married by June 17, 2024. 

This would apply to more than a million illegal immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens, per statistics from the immigration advocacy organization FWD.us.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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