Under the newly announced policy, some 500,000 undocumented spouses will be shielded from deportation and given a pathway to citizenship Drew Coffman/Unsplash

Following a recent sweeping executive order considered to be one of the harshest immigration policies by a Democratic president in recent history, President Biden is once again taking his focus to immigration, this time changing the landscape for undocumented spouses of American citizens.

Under a newly announced policy, some 500,000 undocumented spouses will be shielded from deportation and given a pathway to citizenship, as well as the ability to work legally in the United States. Experts consider it to be one of the most significant presidential actions to protect immigrants in more than a decade.

"For those who have been in the country continuously for at least 10 years and are married (to a U.S. citizen), this will allow people to have a pathway; it will allow folks to get protection," Todd Schulte, president of, said Monday in a teleconference with reporters. "For a lot of folks this means that instead of going to another country and waiting 10 years away from their families, they could do parole in place. We think this is pretty common sense."

The program coincides with the 12-year anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which protects people who came to the United States as children from deportation.

The action is also aimed at appealing to key Latino constituencies in battleground states, including Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, which will be crucial for Biden's chances to claim a second term, CNN reports.

Marrying an American citizen generally provides a pathway to U.S. citizenship. But people who crossed the border illegally— rather than arriving in the country with a visa— must return to their home countries to complete the process for a green card.

That often means long separations from spouses and families. The new program, however, will allow families to remain in the country while they pursue legal status.

Advocates, beneficiaries and Democratic politicians alike are celebrating the new policy.

"We applaud President Biden and the Biden-Harris administration for doing what Congress has been unable or unwilling to do: act to provide common sense and compassionate immigration relief," UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguia said in a statement

She added the announcement is "godsend" for these families, and it will "provide a considerable boost to the U.S. economy and to community stability across the country."

Similarly, Ashley DeAzevedo, head of American Families United, a group that supports mixed-status families like hers (her husband is undocumented) discussed the effects of the policy.

"It would be an absolute game changer to not have to worry about being separated, because right now he could technically be removed," she said. "There's always a concern if he gets pulled over or anything like that. It could be, you know, just catastrophic for our family."

Immigration advocates say they expect the order to be challenged in court by conservative lawmakers or groups opposed to illegal immigration. But they said that will have a political cost for opponents in a presidential election year.

"Americans support this," said Rebeca Shi, executive director of the Americans Business Immigration Coalition. "Seventy-six percent of likely voters in swing states support creating a pathway to citizenship for those who have been living, working, and paying taxes like everybody else."

While no legal action against the policy has been announced yet, leading Senate Republicans have already sharply criticized Biden ahead of the announcement. Republican Whip John Thune, for instance, accused the administration of creating more "pull factors" with the planned immigration action.

"They are increasing the incentive for people to come here illegally," Thune said. "I am sure they'll be challenged."

The move also comes about two weeks after Biden announced another executive action that would shut down asylum requests in the U.S.-Mexico border once the average number of daily encounters is 2,500 between ports of entry, with the border reopening only once that number declines to 1,500.

Biden is also expected to announce Tuesday that his administration will facilitate the employment-visa process for people who have graduated from college and have a high-skilled job offer.

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