SAN DIEGO — During his campaign, President Biden said immigration reform was one of his top priorities. Now that he is finally in office, he's wasting no time. He's already used his executive powers to put a stop to the border wall construction.
He’s also introducing a bill that would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the United States. It's called the US Citizenship Act of 2021.
If passed, it would be the most sweeping immigration reform package since 1986.
Local leaders, including San Diego mayor Todd Gloria, said that it is a good start.
“This is incredibly encouraging," Gloria said.
Gloria is among several local leaders monitoring the Biden Administration's plan for immigration reform. For Gloria, he's not just watching, he expects to be an active participant, offering solutions to what's been a highly contested issue for years.
"San Diego is the largest border city in the United States, and so the mayor of San Diego has to be actively engaged in this issue," he said.
Biden's policy includes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for immigrants. For those living in the US without legal status as of January 1, they would be allowed five years of temporary status, and the opportunity to earn a green card upon meeting requirements like paying taxes and passing a background check. Eligibility to apply for citizenship would follow three years later.
“It certainly gives them some hope, but in my intervention with the immigration community, they are understandably skeptical until they see results,” Gloria said.
Biden would also take a different approach to enforcement. Instead of a border wall, he wants to invest in technology at the border, like improved screening methods.
The bill also seeks to give financial aid to various countries so they can address the conditions forcing people to flee in the first place.
Pedro Rios, director of American Friends Service Committee said that while he welcomes the plan, he sees room for improvement. For starters, he thinks eight years is too long to wait for citizenship.
He also wants to see some changes made to our asylum program, saying while the bill focuses on those already here, but what about the others who were turned away?
“Those people at the door of the United States versus people who are already in house,” Rios said.
While Biden can use his executive powers for some portions of the bill, ultimately, it has to go through the House and Senate.
And with the pandemic and an impeachment trial, experts say don't expect a vote anytime soon.