Biden offers citizenship to immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens

WASHINGTON, June 18 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Tuesday will announce a program offering a path to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. illegally who are married to U.S. citizens, a large-scale legalization effort that contrasts sharply with Republican rival Donald Trump's plan for mass deportations.

The program, which will roll out in coming months, will be open to an estimated 500,000 spouses who have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years as of June 17, senior Biden administration officials said in a call with reporters on Monday.

Some 50,000 children under age 21 with a U.S.-citizen parent also will be eligible, they said. The majority of people who would likely benefit are Mexicans, they added.

The program will allow the spouses and children to apply for permanent residence without leaving the U.S., removing a potentially lengthy process and family separation. They could eventually apply for U.S. citizenship.

Biden, a Democrat seeking a second term in the White House, took office vowing to reverse many restrictive immigration policies of Trump, who is also seeking a second term in the White House. But faced with record levels of migrant arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border, Biden has toughened his approach in recent months.

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