BOSTON — President-Elect Joe Biden is promising sweeping immigration reform day one. It will include an expedited process for the estimated 645,610 DACA recipients nationwide, including 5,490 in Massachusetts.
Local residents, who would benefit from the legislation, say they’re filled with hope and a healthy dose of skepticism at the same time.
“I’m about to graduate college, and I want a job and I want stability, and that’s something that I haven’t had,” said Estefany Pineda of East Boston. The UMASS Boston senior was 9 years old when family brought her to the United States when they fled El Salvador.
“I was escaping violence. We were personally threatened,” Pineda said.
Boston 25 News anchor Kerry Kavanaugh first introduced us to Pineda in 2018. Back then, she felt future was being tossed around like a political football an unfortunate game she says continued.
“My future was played with more than once,” Pineda told Kavanaugh on Tuesday. “I’m in college, right now, and I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish my college career. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to work even if I got my degree.”
Pineda is among a group dubbed ‘dreamers’, people who were brought the U.S. as children.
The Obama administration created a program that offered some legal status. The DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was essentially a stop gap. It allowed dreamers, who passed background checks, to get a stave off deportation and get, for example, a driver’s license, continue their education and work, legally.
The Trump administration tried numerous times to dismantle the program. Arguments even reached the Supreme Court which upheld DACA in June, 2020.
Fast forward to this week. The incoming Biden administration plans to take action on immigration right away. His sweeping immigration reform bill would provide and an eight-year path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants. For dreamers, they could almost immediately qualify for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements.
“This is where I grew up. This is where I live. This is where I want to continue to live for the rest of my life. So being able to do that and not be afraid, it’s just really, really big,” said Adla do Carma. Kavanaugh also first introduced us to her story in 2018.
The childcare worker from Framingham came to the U.S. from Brazil as a young child. For her, this legislation would mean even more than a stable future.
“I get to see family. I haven’t seen my father. I came here when I five. It’s been 23 years since I saw his face,” she said.
The Associated Press reports that the Biden bill is far from a slam dunk. It does not include a robust border security element, which could immediately create roadblocks in Congress, they say. It does, though, look to 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.
In a written statement, Eva Millona, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition said she hopes Congress acts quickly on the Biden legislation. She added “Those who have lived in constant fear of deportation can find hope in the prospect of securing a path to legalization. This bill is economically and politically responsible, and is an essential piece of an inclusive COVID-19 recovery”
And Dreamers echo that call.
“So, I just really hope that it becomes fruitful. And it’s not just an introduction of a policy that’s going to get nowhere,” said Pineda.
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