SAN ANTONIO – After Joe Biden becomes president of the United States, he has said overhauling the nation’s immigration laws will be his top priority.
Biden’s priority comes as a relief to Sara Ramey, an immigration attorney and executive director of the Migrant Center for Human Rights that primarily works with asylum seekers.
“It’s a very good first step,” Ramey said.
Ramey said she’s also excited to hear stakeholders and constituents will be consulted “on how to really come to a comprehensive and common-sense immigration plan.”
Andrea Ramos Fernandez, who graduated from UTSA and helped establish the DACA Center at the university in 2018, is looking at Biden’s proposal from two perspectives.
Fernandez is a DACA recipient who must re-apply every two years for temporary legal status.
“Obviously this bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for myself. It would allow me to get a green card right off the bat,” she said.
Fernandez is also the business outreach manager for the American Business Immigration Coalition made up of business owners and company magnates.
“We are hoping to bring bipartisanship to this issue,” Fernandez said. “This issue should not be political. It should be an economic and humane basis for legislation.”
Fernandez said the bill is so comprehensive with “checklists that immigrant advocates want,” that bipartisanship could be possible.
But Ramey said it will still involve much negotiation to make it happen, unlike years past when other attempts at reform failed.
“The fact that there’s an issue with the way our system is run currently is not really up to debate,” Ramey said. “The devil is really in the details.”
Ramey said even the proposed eight-year path to citizenship for immigrants who had arrived before Jan. 1, 2021, sounds reasonable at first glance.
“Most individuals, once they have a green card, need to wait five years before becoming citizens,” she said. “This proposal actually allows people to get citizenship after three years, but it will take them longer to get their green card than for most people.”
Ramey also is hopeful that the proposal will resume the processing of asylum seekers at the border.
She said besides the strict measures imposed by the Trump administration, like the Remain in Mexico program, currently, due to the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control authorize U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reject all claims to protect public health.
Ramey said even so, the United States should have ways to test and quarantine asylum seekers.
Fernandez said since much of Biden’s proposal will be up for debate.
“We will be able to, if not pass this entire package, at least portions of it,” she said.