Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / Polaris

A child holds a small American flag during a demonstration outside the Los Angeles Federal Detention Center in August 2020.

Photo credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / Polaris

A child holds a small American flag during a demonstration outside the Los Angeles Federal Detention Center in August 2020.

A citizenship path for millions of undocumented immigrants announced by President Joe Biden Wednesday could benefit hundreds of thousands of California children and alleviate fear and anxiety that they, their parents, or other family members might be deported.

Biden’s bill, which gives most undocumented immigrants an eight-year path to citizenship and a shorter three-year path for those who have already been granted a DACA, marks a seismic lynchpin away from immigration Former President Donald Trump’s guidelines included prioritizing all undocumented immigrants for detention and deportation, as well as lifting DACA, a temporary protection program for some immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Biden published his plan a few hours after his inauguration.

Educators, lawyers and immigrant parents said the legislation would help hundreds of thousands of children in California schools. According to the Education Trust-West, an estimated 750,000 K-12 students in California schools – roughly one in eight – have an undocumented parent. Another 145,000 students aged 3 to 17 enrolled in California schools are themselves undocumented, according to an estimate by the Migration Policy Institute. An estimated 72,000 undocumented students are enrolled in the state’s public colleges and universities.

“The last four years have been traumatic for our students as we have seen a dramatic and devastating increase in ICE arrests of parents in our communities, including off-campus, on their way to school. If Biden’s measures are approved, we will hear a big sigh of relief across the country, especially here in California, ”said Amie Scully, founder and CEO of Students Without Limits, an organization that works with schools in the San Diego area to help undocumented students get legal services and go to college.

Under Biden’s bill, undocumented immigrants who were in the U.S. on or before January 1, 2021 could apply for temporary permission to live and work in the U.S. After five years, they could apply for permanent residence, which is often recommended as a green card if they pass background exams and pay their taxes. Three years later they could apply for citizenship.

Those who have already been granted temporary legal status through programs like DACA and some farm workers could apply for permanent residency immediately. There are approximately 184,000 DACA recipients in California. Biden’s legislation would also reduce visa waiting times for family members of US citizens and permanent residents outside the US. In addition, a provision in force since 1996 would be removed that bans many undocumented immigrants from the country for three years if they have been in the US for more than six months and for ten years if they have been in the country for more than a year. This makes it difficult for many undocumented immigrants to become permanent residents, even if they have a spouse of a U.S. citizen or other close family member. The law also strengthens border security with new technologies, among other things to monitor cross-border people.

Biden also signed executive orders undoing part of Trump’s legacy, including one that will strengthen and continue the DACA program, and another to end Trump’s enforcement policy that makes all undocumented immigrants a priority for deportation made.

“This is a small hope for all of us immigrants,” said Maria Jimenez, a Mexican immigrant who has lived in California for 19 years. “We could do a lot of things that we couldn’t because our wings were cut off.”

Jimenez and her husband are both undocumented. Their six children, ages 5-17, were born in California and are US citizens.

Our children are watching. They suffer. It affects them emotionally, ”said Jimenez. She said four years ago when Trump became president and increased detention, one of her daughters became very worried because she feared her parents would be jailed and deported. “She told me, ‘Don’t go outside,” Jimenez said. “She would bite her nails. The stress was even starting to affect her academically.” A survey conducted by the UCLA Civil Rights Project found that fear of enforcement immigration regulations affect school attendance and performance.

Biden’s plans have been welcomed and welcomed by California school district officials and others working with undocumented children.

Children live with constant fear and worry that their parents may not be home when they return from school, or that they themselves will be deported and torn from their communities. This is not new to the Trump administration, but the fear has certainly increased, “said Etel Calles, outreach and communications manager for the Immigrant Family Defense Fund, an Oakland-based organization that raises funds to help undocumented students and families who are threatened with deportation to help.A path to citizenship would give families the security of living in freedom, but this path must be open to all and must not carve out and divide our communities. “

Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, said in a statement: “We thank President Biden for his speed with immigration, an issue that affects so many families in our school community. Many of these undocumented immigrants and dreamers have been on the front lines during this pandemic, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and providing education for the children. Now is the time to recognize their contributions by helping them become citizens of the place where they live. “

Long Beach Unified School District spokesman Chris Eftychiou said when Trump ended the DACA, many students in the district were affected.

“Our role as public school educators is to welcome and serve all students who arrive at the school house door regardless of their living situation,” said Eftychiou. “Our promise is to continue to serve these students and their families, and we embrace any legislation that protects our children, preserves their family unity and enables them to fully participate in our society without undue fear and uncertainty about their right to to be here. ”

Xanthi Pinkerton, spokeswoman for the Elk Grove Unified School District, said, “We salute our new President and hope that newly proposed federal laws such as that for immigrants will support improved development, learning and growth for children, and greater family and community engagement and promote. “

The bill is sure to be rejected by many Republicans. Previous attempts at major immigration reform that included a route to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants failed Congress. Under President Barack Obama, a bill was passed by the Senate in 2013, but it died in the House of Representatives, which was then controlled by Republicans. Some Republicans have already spoken out against Biden’s plan. Senator Marco Rubio, R-FLA., Was quoted by several news outlets as saying, “There are many issues that I think we can work with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are illegal here , it’s not going to be one of them. “

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