FRESNO, California (KSEE) –Democrats are trying to push new immigration reform through the Senate as part of President Biden’s Build Back Better Act.
The budget reconciliation bill includes $100 billion for immigration provisions, which would be spent on expediting the processing of immigration paperwork and expanding visa availability. The plan would benefit 7 million undocumented immigrants, protecting them from deportation and providing them with work permits. It would also grant applicants parole.
“Which is basically like, you came in illegally without a visa, and [with parole] it’s like you came in legally,” said Camille Cook, an immigration attorney in Fresno.
While the reform does not offer a direct path to citizenship, a legal entry status through parole could help some immigrants become eligible for permanent residency, and eventually citizenship.
“It would help a lot of people who are here who have immediate relatives that could petition for them, such as U.S citizen husband or wife, or a U.S citizen adult child. They can’t get a green card because maybe they came here unlawfully, parole would solve that problem.”
Parole is typically granted to immediate family members of those serving in the military, but Cook said this would be the first time it is offered in a larger scale.
The proposed reform is similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because it would provide renewable work permits. However, under this plan they would expire every five years instead of two.
“It’s gonna be for people that have been living here and been law-abiding, have been paying their taxes and contributing to the community. It’s not for people that have prior deportations or serious criminal convictions of any kind,” said Cook.
Those who have been in the U.S before 2011 would qualify, expanding protections to older immigrants excluded from DACA because of the age requirement.
Gelasio Rodriguez said it would help his Visalia farmworker parents.
“When somebody who they don’t know asks them questions or approaches them, there’s always that fear that it may be an undercover immigration officer,” he said.
Rodriguez is also a DACA recipient and said the reform is not exactly what he’s been waiting for, though.
“It doesn’t seem like it’ll be anything permanent. It seems like it’s just temporary protections from deportation, temporary work permits. It’s definitely not something that would help somebody like me make long term decisions about my career, my family.”
“A five-year permit is not enough for us. We’re requesting a pathway to citizenship,” echoed Norma Trinidad Diaz, a DACA recipient in Fresno. “We are here and we’re not leaving. We’re here to stay.”
Other critics of the plan say the U.S should not reward people who have broken the law.