TULSA, Okla. — President Joe Biden is taking on several priorities during his first days in office.
One of those initiatives his administration is hitting the ground running with is immigration reform. Advocates in Tulsa are cautiously optimistic as the reform would create an 8-year path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S.
“I... just, it's overwhelming,” said Rosa Hernandez, a DACA recipient living in Tulsa. “The sense of possibility that we could have here in the next four years of someone like myself and ... I’m sorry, I’m just emotional.”
Hernandez came to America at 4 years old with her sister. This country is her home in every way except on paper. The last administration’s more restrictive approach to immigration halted the path to citizenship for Hernandez and others like her.
“We have to keep fighting for so many more things, for so many other people who don't even have the kinds of privileges that I do, even as a DACA recipient, even though I'm still, you know, even though I could still be deported right now,” said Hernandez.
Mimi Marton, TU law professor and director of Tulsa’s Immigrant Resource Network, helps people with their path to citizenship and provides resources to schools and other groups.
“So, what we're seeing with this new proposal is an incredible game-changer,” said Marton.
The last four years of immigration policy took a much more punitive approach, meaning many undocumented immigrants are being deported despite their contributions to society.
“It didn't matter how many children you have, that you had a home, a job, a business, [or] family. That [you] had no family in your original country," said Marton. "It just didn't matter, and so we've spent the last four years being pretty helpless to prevent any of those deportations.”
While this proposal is a positive one for those who would like to become Americans, the legislation faces an uphill battle.
“It's just incredibly overwhelming all of the possibilities for my community and my people and I'm just, I'm excited but I don't want to get my hopes up," said Hernandez.
GOP leaders and some conservative groups do not support Biden’s proposal and call it “mass amnesty."
The legislation would roll back many of the tougher policies Republicans fought for during the Trump administration.
America’s Path to Citizenship Act 2021 would be the largest sweeping immigration bill in more than 30 years.
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