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'It’s his DACA moment': Advocates ecstatic over Biden immigration plan

President Biden’s announcement shielding some undocumented immigrants from deportation is firing up Hispanic organizers on the left, who see the move as the biggest immigration win since the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program launched in 2012.

The action is also drawing expected criticism from the right, with Republicans accusing Biden of playing electoral politics by protecting the spouses and children of U.S. citizens.

But the groups representing those families are ready to lean into that criticism: For months, they’ve pleaded with Biden to take an openly political approach to relief for long-term undocumented immigrants and have been sharply critical of his moves on border security.

Biden formally introduced his new plan at a White House celebration for DACA’s 12th anniversary, surrounded and applauded by the legislators and advocates who most ardently panned his border security initiative two weeks ago.

Center stage behind Biden were Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chair Nanette Barragán (D-Calif), Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) — a Biden-Harris campaign co-chair who’s been critical of the border security plan — and Rep. Sylvia García (D-Texas).

But the president was also flanked by his top two allies in pushing the border security rule, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Today is a good day,” said Biden, after he was introduced by Javier Quiroz Castro, a nurse and DACA recipient who is married to a U.S. citizen.

The rest of the White House stage was packed with legislators including Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and community leaders such as UnidosUS President Janet Murguía, United We Dream Executive Director Greisa Martínez Rosas and Mi Familia Vota President Héctor Sánchez Barba.

For the intersection of Latino politics and immigration advocacy, it was an all-star cast.

That turnout highlights the deep cultural significance of immigrant relief actions, particularly among Hispanics, a significance that is sometimes overlooked outside the U.S. Hispanic community.

“My mom and dad still talk to this day about amnistía de los ochentas, and how that is what gave them a pathway to citizenship, and that is what brought them out of the shadows,” said Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), referring to the 1986 amnesty spearheaded by then-President Reagan.

Ramirez, who attended the ceremony with her husband, a DACA enrollee, said people who benefit from this relief package will remember Biden as her parents remember Reagan.

“They don’t think of him as a Republican. They don’t think of him as a Democrat. They think of him as a president that did a thing for them that no one else had done. And I think that there are many folks that are right now thinking and wondering, you know, ‘demócrata, republicano — Democrat, Republican, none of them have done anything for us,’” she said.

“They’ll be able to say, ‘I don’t care if he’s a Democrat or Republican, Joe Biden is taking care of my family.’”

Democrats are also upbeat on how they’ll talk about immigrant relief to voters nationwide.

“I just think that it’s great policy, and I think it’s going to turn out to be pretty impossible for Republicans to argue about, you know — they’ll just scream ‘border.’ But, you know, I think the American people are going to understand that it is just as common sense as it gets,” said Rep. Greg Casar (D-Texas).

The new plan streamlines the process for undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens to apply for permanent residency and grants three-year work permits and deferral from deportation for those applicants.

Biden’s plan will also make it easier for undocumented college graduates to apply for work visas with significantly reduced risk of getting stuck abroad in the process.

Immigrant advocates, with a fresh win in hand, are rearing to take that message to Latinos in battleground states including Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

“We know that Pennsylvania is going to make or break the election, and we’re here as CASA in Action because we are getting ready for a major electoral voter mobilization program, and the Latino community needs to know that Biden’s promise to keep families together — he is actively working on that and moving forward with this executive order that’s going to affect so many people around the country,” said Jossie Flor Sapunar, national communications director for CASA in Action, the political wing of an immigration advocacy group in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland.

Though Biden’s action came as no surprise, there was a night-and-day quality to advocates’ tone before and after the news.

“This is actually the kind of policy we need from Biden, a policy that’s uplifting, that it is positive, that is affirmative, that recognizes the important role immigrants have in our country, and that is consistent with the vision that he laid out when he first ran for office,” said Vanessa Cárdenas, executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigration group.

“I absolutely believe it’s his DACA moment. It is very generous. It protects a large number of people, and I think to those voters that have been asking, ‘What has this administration done positively for our community?’ This provides a specific answer at a moment where we really need to show the contrast between what this administration wants to do on immigration versus what [former President] Trump is wants to do.”

For the Biden administration, full-throated praise from a key constituency is refreshing, but advocates have long made clear their holy grail is full legalization for all 11 million long-term undocumented immigrants.

In a letter to Biden on Monday, 127 organizations led by United We Dream and Community Change Action called for the actions announced Tuesday, plus expansion of Temporary Protected Status and relief for undocumented family caregivers.

“These policies are well within your executive power, which has been consistently utilized by both Republican and Democratic administrations alike to grant life-saving relief to individuals and families,” they wrote.

“Moreover, these types of policies enjoy overwhelming support from the American people, who are eager to see action toward fixing our failed immigration system. This is an opportunity to draw a clear contrast to former President Trump and his allies’ xenophobic demagoguery and hateful anti-immigrant fear-mongering.”

And while the immigration advocacy world is on a high, concerns remain about how a decade of culture wars has redrawn perceptions on the issue.

“What our nation’s history and current polling suggests is that there is certainly a symbiotic relationship amongst the words of our community leaders, policies enacted by our elected officials, media headlines, and public perception. One has the power to feed, reinforce, and perpetuate another –– a power that can be used to advance or regress immigrant rights in the U.S.,” said Faisal Al-Juburi, chief external affairs officer at RAÍCES.

“As such, we believe that policies reaffirming our nation’s commitment to protecting families, regardless of citizenship, can positively influence the hearts and minds of the American public. With humanitarian rather than punitive and criminalizing policies, our elected officials can shape public understanding about our community and activate urgent support in favor of fixing our nation’s broken immigration system.”

Source: The Hill

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