President Joe Biden’s first day in office includes progressive immigration bill proposal

Declan McDaniels

President Joe Biden wasted no time after arriving at the White House on Wednesday, Jan. 20, signing 17 executive orders and actions and reversing many of former President Donald Trump’s most controversial policies. The list includes rejoining the Paris Climate Accord and the World Health Organization, pausing federal student loan debt payments and housing foreclosures and mandating masks on federal land. Biden is also directing focus towards the issue of immigration, ending the ban on travelers from countries with a majority Muslim population, halting the construction on the border wall and preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). In addition to these immigration policies, Biden is proposing legislation to Congress that would provide an eight-year path to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., according to Politico. 

Joe Biden signed 15 executive orders and two executive actions on Wednesday, Jan. 20; more than any president ever on their first day in office. (Photo courtesy of Joe Biden)

This bill, named the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, is a major piece of legislation in the controversial issue of immigration, as Trump had warned that all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. were subject to deportation at any time. If passed by Congress, this bill will provide immediate distribution of Green Cards and a path to citizenship after three years for DACA immigrants (Dreamers) and recipients of Temporary Protected Status. Undocumented immigrants will have legal status for five years before having the ability to apply for a Green Card, followed by a three-year path to citizenship. They will also have to pass background checks and pay taxes before they are able to receive their Green Card, according to ABC News.

Marin Primary & Middle School teacher, Meike Wanberg, moved to the U.S. from Germany and was a Green Card holder for over 40 years before gaining citizenship in 2020. Wanberg believes this is the ideal path to citizenship. 

It is a really good idea to start out with a Green Card before you go right away for citizenship, because that way you have five years of being a Green Card holder where you can pretty much do anything and hold any job, except you can’t vote and you can’t join the military,” Wanberg said.

Many immigrants are not able to receive Green Cards or Visas because the U.S. issues a limited number per year. The reported violence and poverty in areas of Central and South America have caused foreigners to seek refuge in a safer place. 

Spanish teacher Maria Civano emigrated from Uruguay after her husband was hired in the U.S., and she believes that everyone should be given a chance to find a safe home.

“You have people [who] have immigrated because of economic hardships, they cannot make ends meet, they have no way of getting to another level where they can actually provide for their families because their countries are either suffering economic hardships themselves, or because of inequities in the government,” Civano said. “Then you have the ones escaping the violence, and either they leave or they die. They have very horrific situations in those countries.”

In 2017, the Trump administration’s travel ban on multiple countries with a majority Muslim population sparked protests in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy of Ted Eytan)

While many immigrants are escaping daily hardships in their home country, some Americans worry that this new population will take job opportunities away from them. At a rally in Phoenix, Arizona in 2015, Trump expressed his displeasure with the immigrants coming across the border illegally. 

“They’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our manufacturing jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re killing us,” Trump said.

This claim has been disputed by many people on the other side of the argument, as immigrants added an estimated $2 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2016, according to the Center for American Progress. 

Junior Asal Takesh moved to the U.S. from Iran when she was four months old and believes that immigration is beneficial for the social and economic status of America.  

“With diversity and with culture, so many different parts of social life can benefit from that, whether it’s in theater, sports, or just in our schools, bringing that culture to these institutions just means that we can learn more from each other,” Takesh said.

Civano also believes that the negative perception that many Americans hold about immigrants is a misrepresentation of how they really are. 

Protestors hold up signs at a rally for ‘Dreamers’ in San Francisco in 2017 after Trump ended DACA. (Photo courtesy of Funcruch Photo)

“No human being is illegal; [immigrants can] have illegal status because they didn’t legally enter the United States…. The immigrants are illegally in the territory but they are not themselves illegal people. There’s no illegal human being,” Civano said.

Biden’s bill proposal will have to pass in both houses of Congress before it can get enacted. The House of Representatives has a slim democratic majority, while the Senate has a 50-50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaking vote for the Democrats. If it passes, undocumented immigrants around the U.S. will have the chance to build their own lives and vote in elections. 

“For the many values that our country loves to emphasize when it comes to being a nation of opportunity, I think that people should be given the chance to at least be able to seek that out for themselves,” Takesh said.