By Amanda Gonzalez Garcia
As part of his new agenda, President Joe Biden has curated a new immigration reform plan to help over 11 million undocumented immigrants become authorized.
Biden hopes to relieve tension built by former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Trump’s goal to build a wall bordering the southern U.S. which would prevent the entry of immigrants into the country, for example, caused tension in immigrant communities. In early 2019, when Congress could not come to terms with funding the wall, a federal government shutdown occurred. The shutdown lasted over 35 days and the wall was never completed.
Biden’s goal to release the tension caused by this shutdown stems from his belief that preventing immigrants from entering the U.S. is detrimental to the country’s citizens and industries, including the arts, culture, and government sectors.
According to the White House government website, “President Biden knows that new Americans fuel our economy, as innovators and job creators."
The Biden administration’s plan will put people on an eight-year path to citizenship.
First Phase of Immigration Reform
As of Jan 1, 2021, the first part of Biden’s plan was set into action. Under this path, undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. can gain temporary legal status or a green card in five years. To qualify, individuals must pass a background check and pay taxes.
Many undocumented individuals already pay taxes under their individual taxpayer identification number. This is a processing number made available to nonresidents and resident aliens and their families who do not reap the benefits of a social security number because of their legal status.
Second Phase of Immigration Reform
The second part of Biden’s plan is a three-year path toward naturalization. This path is for people who are interested in pursuing United States citizenship.
Junior pre-professional biology major Mary Carrasco is glad that immigrants will have easier access to U.S. citizenship, and hope others will share this excitement.
“We are all American, one way or the other, and our differences should not be emphasized as negative aspects,” said Carrasco. “[Such negativity will] take away from all of the opportunities we can share as citizens [and] residents of this nation.”
The eight-year plan welcomes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Dreamers, temporary protected status holders, immigrant farm workers, children, asylum seekers, and others.
Biden’s plan would implement a swift, safe, and orderly integration of immigrants into American society. Still, with the pandemic and lingering policies from the Trump administration, it may be a while before Biden’s plan becomes legislation.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) implemented Title 42 Section 265 under the Trump administration. This policy allows the U.S. Customs and Border Protections to expel immigrants who pose a health risk at the border to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under the policy, posing a health risk includes “...being subject to previously announced travel restrictions or because they unlawfully entered the country to bypass health screening measures.”
The House Signed Two Immigration Bills in 2021
When the House of Representatives signed two bills on March 18 that would give a clear path to migrants trying to obtain permanent resident status, immigrants gained hope.
The first bill was the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, which will provide green cards and eventual citizenship to migrants who entered the U.S. as minors.
The second bill was the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021, which will provide legal status to migrant farm workers.
However, immigrant communities were defeated on March 21, when the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that the U.S. southern border was closed.
The closure came in response to a surge of people on the southern border and may serve to rebuild some of the immigration policies created under the last administration.
Conversely, Biden’s new plan will aid immigrant populations against the Trump administration’s policies. The common goal is to give immigrant families access to opportunities for a better life.
For many years, former associate professor of communication at Barry, Connie Hicks, has served on the board of the Miami-based organization Americans for Immigrant Justice.
She believes that Biden’s new plan will serve the immigrant community well.
“I would hope and to a degree believe the President will put together a long-overdue, humane, concise immigration policy,” said Hicks.