WASHINGTON (AP):- President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping immigration bill on Day One of his administration, hoping to provide an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status, a massive reversal from the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.
The legislation puts Biden on track to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of President Donald Trump’s restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years, but it fails to include the traditional trade-off of enhanced border security favored by many Republicans, making passage in a narrowly divided Congress in doubt.
As a candidate, Biden called Trump’s actions on immigration an “unrelenting assault” on American values and said he would “undo the damage” while continuing to maintain border enforcement.
Under the legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfill other basic requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization, if they decide to pursue citizenship.
For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.
FOX5 spoke with Astrid Silva, executive director of Dream Big Nevada. The nonprofit organization was created after the 2016 election to serve as a tool for Nevada’s immigrant families.
Silva immigrated to Nevada when she was 5 years old.
“I’ve been here for 28 years, the United States is the only country I’ve ever known. I’ve always said I’m proud to be an American and I have everything except for the citizenship,” Silva said.
She’s said she’s optimistic and excited a plan has been put in place.
“I think if anything it’s just the feeling of tranquility of people wanting to work, people wanting to continue living. A lot of times people forget that undocumented people or people who are figuring out their legal status are your neighbors, they’re the child that’s in your child’s Zoom class. It’ll help us all to remember we are humans and that all of us are trying to survive a global pandemic right now,” Silva said.
Juan Plascencia teaches high school social studies for the Clark County School District. His parents left Mexico when he was 3.
“Unfortunately, I can’t defend myself against nature and time but what I can prove to you is that I’m a human being. And what I deserve, truly, I deserve a shot,” Plascencia said.
He is a DACA recipient.
“DACA, that is something that is merit based. You can’t just apply for DACA and get it. It’s a bunch of steps you have to go through- you have to be vetted. To me it’s a longtime coming and I really hope the President pulls through with this. I hope that they show the data, these DACA kids, they earned their keep. They deserve it. Because they earned it,” Plascencia said.
The bill is not as comprehensive as the last major immigration overhaul proposed when Biden was vice president during the Obama administration.
For example, it does not include a robust border security element, but rather calls for coming up with strategies. Nor does it create any new guest worker or other visa programs.
It does address some of the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States, and provides grants for workforce development and English language learning.
Biden is expected to take swift executive actions to reverse other Trump immigration actions, including an end to the prohibition on arrivals from several predominantly Muslim countries.
During the Democratic primary, Biden consistently named immigration action as one of his “day one” priorities, pointing to the range of executive powers he could invoke to reverse Trump’s policies.
Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and enough other GOP senators to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades.
That kind of major win — even if it involves compromise — could be critical as Biden looks for legislative victories in a closely divided Congress, where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities that involve rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending.
As a candidate, Biden went so far as to say the Obama administration went too far in its aggressive deportations.
Barrow reported from Wilmington, Del. Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.
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