PHOENIX - On his first day as president, Joe Biden unveiled his sweeping immigration plan, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Biden’s plan would only apply to those already living in the US since Jan. 1 of this year.
The bill is known as the US Citizenship Act of 2021. The centerpiece of the bill is a provision that would create an eight-year path to citizenship for millions of people. DACA residents and farm workers would be able to apply for green cards immediately.
"What this represents is the return of sanity to the discussion of immigration," says Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Under President Biden’s immigration bill, immigrants would be able to get a work permit. After five years, they would be able to apply for a green card if they pass background checks and pay taxes.
After holding their green card for three years and passing more background checks, they would be able to apply for US citizenship.
"I’m optimistic not only that there will be a more humane attitude toward immigration, but that there’s going to be a sincere effort to try to reform what we all know is a broken system," Grijalva says.
For many Dreamers, the optimism is tempered by reality. Immigration talks have sown division and the bill faces an uphill battle in Congress.
"We’re very hopeful but we’re also grounded in history. The last eight years of the Obama Administration, when Democrats had the House and Presidency but were not able to find a compromise with the Republicans," says Jose Patino with Aliento, an Arizona-based pro-immigration group.
The fact that the president has made immigration reform one of his top priorities sheds new hope for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US.
"It would be a sign we belong in this country. Even though we’re DACA recipients, it still doesn’t feel like this is our country. So my hope is that soon thousands of us will be able to call this country home," Patino said.
"This is a very, very important issue that the past administration used like a hammer to divide people, and anything we can do to bring some closure, to bring some kind of unity to the issue of immigration, to the border, will go a long way to extending that attitude across the country in many many communities," he said.
Biden’s bill also seeks to address the causes of immigration, allocating $4 billion toward economic development and curbing violence and corruption in Central America.
Republican lawmakers have already expressed their opposition to Biden’s immigration plan with one republican leader calling it a "mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached."