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Biden immigration order is a light at the end of a long tunnel of hope

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Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week:

The executive order issued by President Joe Biden, to allow certain undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens to legalize themselves, is a light at the end of a long tunnel for a segment of the millions of people without documents, who have been waiting decades for immigration relief. 

The White House calculates that the directive will benefit a half million spouses and 50,000 minors under 21 years old, the undocumented children of U.S. citizens; Families of mixed immigration status who will remain together, without the specter of deportation. 

It has to do with people who are already eligible to regularize their immigration status due to their ties to a U.S. citizen but face obstacles like, for example, having to apply outside the country if they originally entered without documents, activating the so-called reentry bar that keeps them from returning to the United States for 10 years. This order eliminates that bar and permits them to adjust their status without leaving the country.

The directive is also the mechanism that Biden has at hand to act in a unilateral and immediate way, because the Republicans in Congress have blocked any attempt at legalization that extends immigration benefits to undocumented people even if, as in this case, they have continuously lived in the United States for 10 years or more. On average they have lived here, without documents, for the past 23 years. They are married to citizens of this country and living in established families — with approximately 600,000 citizen children — and embedded in their communities. Not to mention the contributions they make to our economy on a daily basis.

To that end, Biden will employ Parole in Place — temporary permission to reside in the country — to protect these people from deportation and offer them work permits that would last for three years, during which time the person could apply for permanent residency. 

The other component of this announcement is a measure that permits DACA beneficiaries and Dreamers who have graduated from a US college and received a job offer in a field related to their degree to obtain work visas.

It is to be expected that the opponents will try to challenge the order in court, but in the meantime, the idea is that all eligible persons will apply.

The announcement also seeks to alleviate the disgruntlement generated among immigrants advocates by another order issued by Biden some weeks ago, to close the border to people seeking asylum when the numbers of irregular border crossings rise above 2,500 daily for a week.

In the middle of the presidential contest. Biden is trying to find a balance on all sides so that he can act energetically on the issue of the border without alienating voters, especially those in his base, including Latinos, for whom the immigration issue is important — whether that be for family reasons, empathy, or simply the common sense that goes with legalizing those who contribute to our economy and are rooted in our communities.

This is an issue that also moves voters in competitive states like Nevada and Arizona.

Many hope that the order will have the same effect of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which Barack Obama issued in 2012 in the middle of his reelection campaign, at a time when his record number of deportations had disenchanted many Latino voters.

DACA mobilized voters to the polls and, ultimately, Obama was reelected in 2012 with 71% of the Latino vote, more than the 67% support he achieved among Hispanics in his historic 2008 election.

Biden made the announcement at a celebration for the 12th anniversary of DACA. Without a doubt, the order should help those who register and mobilize voters in a complicated electoral cycle. 

And although its political effect will be known on Election Day, the order allows Biden and the Democrats to outline clear contrasts with Trump and the Republicans, who want to impose a macabre plan for mass deportations, not only at the border but also the interior of the country, and detention camps that sound more like concentration camps. 

In this way, Biden could appeal to the majority of voters who, according to various polls, support balanced solutions for border security accompanied by a path to legalization, especially for those undocumented people who have been living among us for decades. 

Trump already labeled Biden’s action “amnesty,” to continue riling up his anti-immigrant base. But with his executive order, Biden is helping hundreds of thousands of immigrants, offering a ray of hope to others who continue to wait and, in the process, offering many voters reasons to support him on November 5.

The original Spanish version is here.