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President Joe Biden was sworn into his new position on a historic Inauguration Day, and along come the bills, proposals and orders that follow his political initiative. One of the first proposals the Biden administration will be pushing for after the inauguration is its immigration bill.
Biden pushed immigration reform in his campaign process, determined to change how immigration issues were handled by the Trump administration in his four-year tenure. Biden’s proposal will consist of making the process of becoming an American citizen easier. Under Biden, current recipients of the “Dreamers” Act and other programs will theoretically be able to apply for permanent legal residency after eight years.
Immigration is always a hot-button issue in New Mexico. A lawsuit filed in December 2019 by the state accused the federal government of shirking its responsibilities toward asylum seekers in the southern part of the state. That lawsuit was later dismissed. The Trump administration was using these locations to “catch and release” immigrants who were crossing the border illegally, and the state paid to shelter the migrants.
The new bill will not only affect the border but immigrants from overseas and the intimidating presence of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“There’s a sense of relief with this new president. A weight is lifted off of their shoulders now that ICE isn’t just going to take them away, especially if they’ve been here a long time with children,” says Fedah Abdelhack, a teacher at Salam Academy, a school largely made up of children of immigrant parents. “I know people in our Muslim community were scared, even if they had papers and were here legally. Anybody without citizenship could be deported, and people were scared. I was fortunate to be born here, but a lot of people weren’t and were too afraid to do anything in case the government decided to revoke their papers at any time.”
ICE established its presence in New Mexico and the nation arresting and deporting numerous immigrants across the U.S.
“We’ve been very busy today,” says Rebecca Kitson, an Albuquerque immigration attorney. “The past four years have been a roller coaster for everyone. I’m cautiously optimistic about new changes, because it’s not a partisan issue. I hope for the positive, though, and that the laws we already have on the books will be applied in a much more humane way.”
Yet, with a new proposal comes gripes from the opposition. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) vocalized his disapproval, exclaiming, “This policy asks for total amnesty, with little regard for the health and security for Americans and zero enforcement.”
This immigration proposal will be among Biden’s first actions in his presidency with others to follow quick on its heels.