On day one, President Joe Biden signed multiple executive orders including the protection of the DACA program.
President Biden also plans to send an immigration bill to Congress which includes, in part, a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. an increase of U-visas, and immediate eligibility for a green card for DREAMers.
“We’re excited. It's been four years of stress, of fighting and pushing, but today is historic. We worked so hard, we knocked on over 12,000 homes in Arizona to plead the senate, to have a new administration,” stated Karina Ruiz, an Arizona DACA recipient.
A bright day for DREAMers
Ruiz spoke to ABC15 Wednesday morning as she was heading to Capitol Hill along with other DREAMers from Arizona. They hoped they could deliver a message to the new administration.
“Our message is that we need an immigration reform now, we need them to stop deportations, defund ICE and CBP and really integrate immigrants into society,” said Ruiz.
She says more needs to be done, but that Wednesday is a bright day for the more than 20,000 DREAMers with DACA status in Arizona.
Under the immigration bill President Biden is proposing, as a DACA recipient, Ruiz will qualify for U.S residency or a green card. DREAMers like Ruiz could then eventually be able to apply to become a U.S. citizen.
However, her mother who’s been living in the U.S. as an undocumented since 1999 would need to wait for eight years.
“Five of those years will be with a work permit to then get to apply for your residency and if you’re approved for it for three years to then eventually be able to become a U.S. citizen at the end of those eight years,” said immigration lawyer, Ezequiel Hernandez.
Hernandez says the plan is robust and not everyone will benefit the same way throughout the process.
“This proposal, if it came to be true, would still need to vet every single individual and discard individuals based on criminal issues, background checks. Then you will have to go five years on a straight narrow path paying taxes, being able to prove to this society that you truly belong and could get a status for a green card after three years.”
After being granted a green card, a person can apply to become a U.S. citizen. As a green card holder, one cannot vote.
The eight-year pathway to citizenship worries Ruiz, she says some immigrants won’t be able to wait, just like her father who died waiting for a U-Visa.
“My dad passed away in November, the day before Thanksgiving from COVID. He was an immigrant, a victim of a crime. He was waiting for a U-Visa, but that takes four to five years,” stated Ruiz.
According to the American Immigration Council, there’s a backlog on U-Visas of over 100,000. Under the new Biden’s immigration bill, the number of these visas is expected to increase from 10,000 to 30,000.
“They need to act so that our families are reunited before we pass away,” expressed Ruiz.
Reversing Trump’s policies
Hernandez says it’s important to point out the stark differences between Trump’s and the proposed Biden’s immigration policies.
“It can be resumed to three pillars. One is going to be the security of the United States, the physical wall, technology. The second will be finding the root cause of the type of mas immigration that occurs in Central America, and the last pillar is to essentially legalize individuals that are here in the United States undocumented."
The immigration proposal will not benefit those arriving in the U.S. after Jan. 1, 2021. “That is to make sure that you don’t send the message that any migrant caravan that may be on its way would be eligible for that,” stated Hernandez.
President Biden's immigration proposal still needs the support in Congress.