US President, Joe Biden, met with six immigrants on May 14 as part of his plans for a US immigration overhaul. The six immigrants were brought to the US illegally and have benefitted from the Obama-era, Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects them from deportation from the US.
As a presidential candidate, Biden vowed to protect those people, often described as ‘Dreamers’ and their families by reinstating the Obama-era policy. Biden’s meeting with the six immigrants came as he seeks to push Congress to pass legislation that would codify DACA, which former US President Barack Obama instituted by executive order in 2012.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, said back in March that his agency was issuing a rule to ‘preserve and fortify DACA’. However, the program is currently the subject of a lawsuit in Texas, which could see the protections put in place by Obama, invalidated.
Trump tried to abolish program
Former US President, Donald Trump, attempted to scrap the program. In 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled that Trump could end the scheme, but he did so ‘improperly’. As a result, the Supreme Court ordered him to reinstate the program.
Biden has called for broader US immigration reforms, central to which is a pathway to US citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants, a plan that faces stiff opposition in a closely divided Congress.
However, the President has made it clear that passing legislation to protect DACA, which has huge bipartisan and American public support, should be the floor for action on US immigration.
In an address before the joint session of Congress in April, Biden said: “If you don’t like my plan, let’s at least pass what we all agree on. Congress needs to pass legislation this year to finally secure protection for Dreamers — the young people who have only known America as their home.”
On Twitter, White House director for intergovernmental affairs, Julie Rodriguez, posted: “The DACA recipients Biden met with include teachers, health care workers and farm workers who have been on the frontlines throughout this pandemic keeping our communities safe, educated, and fed.”
According to the White House, those who met with Biden included:
— Maria Praeli, an immigrant rights advocate who arrived in the US from Peru when she was 5 so her sister could receive medical treatment.
— Esmeralda Tovar-Mora, who arrived in Kansas from Mexico when she was only 18 months old. She attends college while working as a case manager for a mental health center and a medication aide at a nursing home. She is the mother of a 3-year-old and her husband serves in the Kansas National Guard.
— Astou Thiane, a DACA advocate and educator, who was brought to the US from Senegal when she was 7 and only learned of her US immigration status when she was applying for college.
— Leydy Rangel, the daughter of migrant farm workers in California. She now works with a nonprofit advocacy group assisting immigrants, farm workers and Latinos in rural California.
— Jrayut “New” Latthivongskorn, who came from Thailand when he was 9 and is now a second-year medical resident in San Francisco.
— Karen Reyes, whose mother brought her to the US from Mexico when she was 2. She is now a kindergarten teacher for students who are hard of hearing or deaf.
It’s understood that the meeting was only the second known gathering of DACA recipients in the Oval Office, the last of which also involved Joe Biden when he was Vice President in 2015. The President also met with DACA recipients on a recent trip to Georgia.
Meanwhile, a ‘Dreamer’ was also one of First Lady, Jill Biden’s, virtual guests at the President’s speech last month.
A White House official said the recent meeting at the Oval Office was ‘an opportunity to send a message that this is a priority for the Biden administration’.
Back in March, the US House of Representatives passed two US immigration bills that would create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and give legal status to farmworkers. However, the legislation is against the odds in the Senate.
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