DENVER — On Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden sent an immigration reform bill to Congress that proposes a pathway to citizenship within eight years for about 11 million people without legal status.
Alejandro Flores-Muñoz of Denver was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 7 years old along with his brother. He remembers knocking on doors with his mother as a little boy, pushing for immigration reform after moving to the United States.
Flores-Muñoz is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which grants individuals who qualify temporary protection from being deported from the United States. DACA recipients are also known as Dreamers. Flores-Muñoz comes from a mixed-status family— while he has some freedom and protections, for more than two decades his mother has lived in the U.S. without legal status.
“My mom is a janitor. She’s been cleaning universities for decades now and we should be acknowledged,” Flores-Muñoz said.
The night before Biden’s inauguration, Flores-Muñoz messaged his mother. His eyes welled with tears as he recounted their conversation.
“I told her, ‘I want to walk with you and talk with you about what this means for us as immigrants, what it means to us as a family,’” Flores-Muñoz said.
He said he felt like a target under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
“My biggest fear was made reality… The moment he took office, he took on almost as a challenge of making sure to dismantle the protections that we had,” Flores-Muñoz said.
For many, Biden’s immediate actions prove that immigrants have a voice.
But Flores-Muñoz doesn’t want to get his hopes up too high.
“We have been promised this before,” Flores-Muñoz said. “I’m not going to just celebrate. I’m going to make sure that we are out there and saying, ‘You know what, we’ve got to make this happen.'”
Flores-Muñoz runs three businesses including a food truck and a virtual kitchen. He said he hopes to expand to five states by the end of 2021.
He said he hopes Biden can expand his freedom and help bring out the millions of immigrants living in the shadows.
On Wednesday, Biden sent the immigration reform bill coined the U.S. Citizenship Act 2021 to Congress. The bill proposes a pathway to citizenship in eight years for immigrants who qualify. Applicants must be present in the U.S. before January 1, 2021.
DACA, Temporary Protected Status holders and immigrant farmworkers will be eligible to immediately apply for a green card. Other undocumented people can apply for temporary status and after five years they can apply for a green card as long as they pass a criminal and security background check and pay their taxes. After three years, all green card holders who pass background checks can become citizens.
This immigration reform would pave a pathway to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The reform also proposes a series of changes to manage and secure the border and to protect undocumented people from exploitation.
Congress must vote on the bill.
Gaining support will likely be a challenge.
Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted: “The Biden amnesty plan would hurt American workers, lead to more illegal border crossings, and be detrimental to the health and safety of Americans.”
The last time a major immigration reform bill was passed was in 1986 — 34 years ago — by former President Roland Reagan. It paved a pathway for citizenship for millions of immigrants.