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Local ‘Dreamer’ hopeful, but skeptical of immigration reform bill proposal

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Jan 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-24 18:25:46-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — President Joe Biden is hoping to enact a sweeping reform of the U.S. immigration system in his first year as Commander in Chief.

The new administration sent a breakdown of what he hopes to accomplish with immigration to Congress on the first day of his presidency.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would prove an eight-year path to citizenship for 11.4 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States on or before Jan. 1, 2021. It would also immediately qualify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients, also known as Dreamers, for green cards if they are working or in school, among other changes.

“I will say although I am hopeful, my patience is running extremely low at this point,” said Omar Salinas-Chacón, a Dreamer.

Salinas-Chacón says his family fled El Salvador in 2001 after gang members kidnapped his father and grandfather for ransom money.

For 20 years, his family has been living in the country under the radar. Salinas-Chacón has dedicated his life in the U.S. to advocate for immigration reform and immigrant rights.

“We’re once again at a point where we’re promised immigration reform. I’ve been here before,” he said. “I know people who have been [in the U.S.] for 30 and 40 years who have heard this story over and over at this point.

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the U.S. Citizenship Act’s lead sponsor, acknowledges the legislation faces a battle in an evenly divided Congress. Democrats will need to win over ten Republicans to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. That will likely mean negotiation.

“I’m under no illusions. I know from my time in the ‘Gang of Eight’ that passing immigration reform through the Senate particularly is a herculean task,” Menendez said.

The ‘Gang of Eight’ is a bipartisan group of senators who in 2013 passed an immigration overhaul in the Senate. The bill died in the Republican-controlled House.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted the U.S. Citizenship Act proposal, calling the plan “a massive proposal for blanket amnesty that would gut enforcement of American laws while creating huge new incentives for people to rush here illegally at the same time.”

“We’re going to keep pushing for what we think is right,” said Salinas-Chacón about his hopes for the future if Biden’s proposal fails on Capitol Hill. “Being afraid 24/7 and having a bunch of opportunities shut down just because of where I was born, I don’t think that’s necessarily living.”

Sen. Menendez has not said when he plans to introduce the immigration reform bill to Congress.