Shortly after President Biden took office, he proposed an immigration plan that would offer an eight-year path to full citizenship for 11 million immigrants who currently reside in the United States without legal status.
The plan from Biden and Vice President Kamala D. Harris would give qualified immigrants from Central America temporary legal status for five years, and then give them a green card after meeting background checks. They could then apply for full citizenship in three years.
To qualify for the citizenship program, they have to have been in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021.
Biden's plan was praised by pro-immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers who have been supporters of immigration reform.
Former President Trump was fiercely anti-immigrant during his presidency, attacking them as murderers, drug-runners, rapists and other assorted criminals.
In fact, studies show that most immigrants are hardworking, entrepreneurial people who start businesses, create jobs and contribute to economic growth.
In the 2020 election, "Biden won the support of 63% of Latino voters, compared with Trump's 35%, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 110,000 voters nationwide," The Associated Press reported this week. "Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1996 to carry Arizona, in part because of strong grassroots backing from Mexican American groups opposed to strict GOP immigration policies going back decades."
"It means so much to us to have a new president propose bold, visionary immigration reform on Day One. Not Day Two. Not Day Three. Not a year later," New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, his chamber's lead sponsor of the Biden package, told AP.
At the heart of Biden's immigration proposal is a belief that it will encourage a broader immigrant support base for his party in the next election.
"This is not a wall; this is not taking money from the Department of Defense," a transition official told The Washington Post. "It's a very different approach."
"It also grants work permits for spouses and children of temporary worker visa-holders," officials said.
Biden administration officials said that only Congress can "step up" and legislate a path to citizenship, but Biden has already begun to map out his own plan.
"He's unveiling his draft immigration bill this week, and it's what you'd expect from the party of open borders: Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, tweeted last month. "Let's be clear: Joe Biden is prioritizing amnesty ahead of the pandemic or getting Americans back to work. We can't let him get away with it."
But Biden's $1.9 trillion relief bill is still going nowhere, at a time when the economy is desperately in need of a pro-growth boost to put laid-off Americans back to work.
The relief package is already being declared "dead on arrival" in the Senate, a victim of partisan squabbling.
Biden is being advised to cut a deal and ram the bill through the Senate without GOP support. But with the budget deficit in the stratosphere, there's little appetite on either side to take the political blame.
The electorate is in a cranky mood and needs a relief bill few in Congress want to vote for, though Biden knows it has to get it passed, and soon.
In the first true tests of his agenda, Biden must rally support for both coronavirus relief and immigration reform.
"Having leadership makes a big difference," says Menendez. "You cannot achieve immigration reform without presidential leadership, and from what I see, the seriousness of their purpose to start off with gives me a real good feeling that the president is actually going to use capital to try to make this happen."
The betting in this corner is that Biden will succeed. We need these immigrants in a number of businesses, and their work ethic is visible throughout every corner of our country.
In my neighborhood, they are putting new shingles on roofs, siding on homes, landscaping, restoring masonry, repairing roads and delivering newspapers, among a long list of other jobs.
Go into any nursing home or hospital, and you will see a lot of hardworking immigrants taking care of older Americans.
"The Biden-Harris administration is going to be strong partners in helping undo a lot of the Trump administration's cruel and divisive immigration policy over the last four years," Menendez says.