Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash.
By Brenda Fernanda Verano, News Editor
Hours after being constituted as the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden wasted no time in reversing the former administration anti-immigration sentiments by disclosing and sending lawmakers in Capitol Hill an immigration bill titled the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, that consists of granting citizenship for nearly 11 million qualified immigrants, which 2 million of them reside in California.
Although the official text of the bill has not been released, the president’s administration released a four-page fact sheet of the bill on Jan. 20. According to the fact sheet, the bill would help “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system” by providing a path to citizenship in an eight-year period.
Under this proposal, undocumented immigrants must be living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, to be able to be considered under this bill, leaving out thousands of Central Americans who are currently on their way to the U.S in caravans in search of asylum.
For those who do qualify, the process will be broken down into two parts. Undocumented immigrants would first need to apply and be granted a temporary legal status “with the ability to apply for green cards after five years if they pass criminal and national security background checks and pay their taxes.” The second part will consist of beginning a three-year process of applying for citizenship, for a total of eight years.
But there will be a few exceptions of undocumented people that will not have to wait as long. According to the bill, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and farmworkers who meet requirements would be the most positively affected by this bill. They will be eligible for green cards “immediately under the legislation,” giving new hope to the approximately 750,000 undocumented immigrants across the country brought to the U.S. as children – also known as Dreamers.
Other than introducing the immigration bill, Biden also signed 17 executive orders on his first day in office. One of these was a presidential memorandum, directing Homeland Security to “preserve and fortify” DACA, after the Trump administration placed a wind-down on the program in 2017. This led the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to stop accepting new applications until last summer when a 5-4 vote from the U.S. Supreme Court overruled this decision, claiming that Trump failed to provide enough adequate justification to validate the rescinding of the federal program.
In a press release on Jan.
But during a “Meet and Greet: CSU Legal Services” meeting hosted by the California State University, Dominguez Hills’ Toro Dreamer Success Center last Friday, assistant attorney, Michelle Polanco, who offers her services at CSUDH and works for CARECEN, said that although this bill is great news, “the bill, is just that for right now, only a bill. It still has to pass both houses of Congress.”
Nonetheless, she urges Toros to take advantage of the free legal services offered to CSUDH’s students, staff faculty, and their immediate family by scheduling an appointment with one of the attorneys who can assist with legal screenings, DACA initial and renewals applications, citizenship applications, and other immigration-related matter during the spring semester.
And although the process for an immigration reform bill to become law can be a long one, many undocumented people do not lose hope as their future looks brighter than it has in the past four years, especially as Democrats control the presidency, the House and the Senate.
Editor’s note: The new face in charge of Biden’s immigration agenda was confirmed Tuesday evening, Alejandro Mayorkas is the first immigrant born in Cuba who was sworn in as the new Secretary of Homeland Security.