Biden announces new policy shielding immigrants married to US citizens from deportation

Joe Biden's administration has announced plans to open a citizenship pathway to undocumented spouses of Americans, in a move that could affect upwards of 500,000 people, according to officials.

The White House announced on Tuesday that the government will allow certain spouses of US citizens who do not have legal status to apply for permanent residency and eventually, citizenship, in the coming months.

To qualify, they must have lived in America for at least 10 years and be married to a US citizen - although there is no requirement on how long they have to have been spouses for.

Spouses eligible to apply for this scheme have been in the US for 23 years on average, according to The White House.

If an immigrant's application is approved, they will have three years to apply for a green card, and receive a temporary work permit - all whilst being shielded from deportation.

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An estimated 50,000 children who are not citizens but have a parent who is married to one could also potentially qualify for the same process, senior officials said.

The announcement comes two weeks after President Biden unveiled a crackdown at the US border with Mexico that limits asylum processing once they reach 2,500 per day.

The limit went into effect immediately, as current figures stand at around 4,000 per day.

The government faced fierce backlash over the crackdown from advocate groups and many Democratic politicians, with President Biden's new initiative predicted to try and find some sort of middle ground.

At an event at the White House later today, the president is also expected to set out new regulations that allow beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme - set up by Barack Obama - and other young immigrants to qualify more easily for long-established work visas.

Key battleground in upcoming election

Immigration is a key issue in the upcoming presidential election.

Sky News' chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay witnessed the plight of immigrants trying to make it to North America riding on a freight train nicknamed "La Bestia" (The Beast") or sometimes the "Train of Death".

At least 200 people attempted to clamber onto the train in the dead of night, but a short while into the journey Mexican immigration officers boarded the train alongside armed soldiers and national guard and worked their way through the railway cars trying to persuade people to get off.

Despite the difficulties of the journeys - and the new brutal interventions by the Mexican authorities - the inexorable move north goes on, Ramsay said.

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Biden's Republican rival in the upcoming election, Donald Trump, has previously said that he would seek to end automatic citizenship for children born in the US to immigrants living in the country illegally.

The former president also pledged to launch the largest deportation effort in US history, focusing on criminals but aiming to send millions back to their home countries.

In an interview with Time magazine, he said that he would also reinstate the Title 42 policy - first brought in during the COVID-19 pandemic - which allowed US border authorities to quickly expel migrants back to Mexico without the chance to claim asylum.

Tune into Sky News' special programme with Yalda Hakim on the migration crisis tonight at 9pm.