LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — It was an emotional day for Lizbeth Ablen after watching the inauguration of President Joe Biden.
The DACA recipient came to California at the age of two from Mexico.
“I was very young, I don’t remember anything from Mexico, I don’t even remember the journey here,” she said. “I came with my aunts.”
Now the Dreamer is a UC Irvine grad and works for an immigrants’ rights nonprofit. She hopes under the Biden administration she’ll be granted a path to citizenship.
“The United States is my home – specifically California. California has a high population of Latinos and this is where we call home. I think we created our own culture here, my roots are here,” she said.
In a historic move, President Biden signed an executive order to take actions to safeguard the DACA program – a program President Trump tried to suspend. His attempts were blocked in court.
Aside from protecting these people from deportation — roughly 640,000 — Biden’s ultimate goal would give them a path to citizenship within the next three years.
It’s part of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 — a broad immigration bill that, if passed by Congress, could legalize millions of undocumented immigrants.
“It includes a lot more then just this pathway to residency so that’s one thing to keep in mind for folks who might be critical of this,” said Camila Alvarez, the legal director for Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). “There’s also things in there about making sure the border is secure and making sure there’s enforcement of drug traffickers.”
But groups like Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) say Biden needs to pump the breaks on his proposal.
“What he is starting with is addressing the demands of people who are violating our immigration laws…and ignoring the longstanding problems of our immigration system,” said FAIR spokesperson Ira Mehlman.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants but ultimately it’s Congress who will decide what the bill will look like.
Rep. Linda Sánchez of Norwalk is a co-sponsor of the bill and she has picked six representatives to guide the bill through the house. All women — they call themselves, “The Closers,” — the people who will close the deal.
Four of the women, including Rep. Judy Chu of Pasadena, are from California.
“It would clear the terrible visa backlog that has resulted in families waiting 10-20 years to reunite with their families,” Chu said. “This is a reflection of the increasing numbers of women of color that have been elected to Congress who have taken the whole immigration issue very seriously. “
The bill will need some Republican support, but it’s the first time in years that Chu has felt hope for immigration reform.
“The priorities in this bill are long-standing issues that have made it so much more difficult for immigrants in this country,” Chu said.
A lot of details are still in the works, but the ultimate idea is to keep families together and relieve the backlog of cases in immigration court.
The bill would also stop funding for the building of the border wall, and instead turn to technology for border security.