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Immigration protections in Build Back Better bill bring hope to DACA recipients

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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States

If passed into law, President Biden’s Build Back Better bill would create the largest mass-legalization program for undocumented immigrants in U.S. history. Roughly 7 million of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants currently in the U.S. — including "Dreamers," coronavirus-era essential workers and farmworkers — would be eligible for the new immigration protections.

Video Transcript

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- President Joe Biden's Build back better Bill would create the largest mass legalization program for unauthorized immigrants in US history.

- And we've got to open up more legal pathways, especially if we want to see a reduction in irregular migration, some of the things that we're seeing at the border.

- The Build Back Better Act includes legislation that protects up to 7.1 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

- Democrats are pushing to include certain immigration protections in President Biden's sweeping new social spending plan.

- But for many in the undocumented community, it falls well short of a pathway to US citizenship.

EFRAIN LEAL ESCALERA: It's interesting to be in this position, in the position that I'm in, having to prove that I'm worthy of having a work permit or being able to travel outside the country, and thinking that I'm not good enough or worthy enough of those privileges.

Regardless if I have papers or not or regardless of my community has papers or not, we are still contributing in one way or another, small and big ways. And I think those actions and those impacts speak for themselves.

- 32-year-old Efrain Escalera is one of the nearly 800,000 dreamers in the United States. He was born and raised in northern Mexico, in the state of Durango. He was brought to the US when he was seven years old in 1996. For more than 20 years, he's lived in this country.

EFRAIN LEAL ESCALERA: Kind of a little bit of deja vu, you know. The Bills come out, there's this hype, and then it kind of dies down and nothing happens.

- Roughly seven million of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants, including dreamers, coronavirus era essential workers and farm workers would be eligible for new immigration protections. That means getting work permits, permission to travel abroad, and benefits like a state driver's license.

RAY YBARRA MALDONADO: The most popular one, the one everybody's been talking about is giving parole status in five year increments for up to 10 years. The individuals who have been in the country for at least 10 years don't have a certain criminal background.

- But thousands living in the US are not covered.

RAY YBARRA MALDONADO: So individuals who have been here for so long contribute so much to our economy, getting us through the pandemic, we're still cutting them short. Or individuals who came eight years ago, who came nine years ago, who don't have those certain documentation to prove that they were here before that timeline, everyone is being left out. It's simply a work permit and a promise not to be deported. It's not a pathway to residency, it's not a pathway to citizenship.

- To qualify under the new Bill, immigrants must have arrived in the United States before January of 2011 and must show proof that they've lived here ever since. The Bill would allow work permits to be valid for five years, extended protections through September 2031. Nearly 65% of the undocumented immigrants in the country would be protected from deportation if the Bill gets approved.

RAY YBARRA MALDONADO: The people that I deal with on a daily basis live in fear. They live in the fear that the life that they've created, the children that they're raising, the houses that they're living in are going to be taken away from them at any moment.

EFRAIN LEAL ESCALERA: I do think it's looking a little better than previous times, than previous Bills so hopefully this gets approved and we get our papers to go to school to teach, to travel, to do research, to get involved in things that only people that are born in this country and are beneficiaries of the government of the United States are able to.

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