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First Illinois Latina Rep. Praises Biden’s New Immigration Executive Order But Slams Border Shutdown

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Image Credit: Courtesy of Delia Ramirez

President Joe Biden’s latest executive order on immigration gives legal protections to about half a million undocumented immigrants who are married to American citizens, preventing their deportation and providing a streamlined pathway to citizenship for them and their children. The announcement is being welcomed by immigrant rights groups, but comes just weeks after Biden signed another order giving himself far-reaching power to shut down the U.S. border with Mexico to limit asylum requests. The two executive orders “could not be more different from each other,” says Congressmember Delia Ramirez of Illinois. She attended Tuesday’s White House ceremony with her husband Boris Hernández, who came to the U.S. as a teenager and would qualify for protections under the new rule, and says Biden must offer an alternative to hard-line Republican policies. “Be the administration that shows the stark difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden as it pertains to immigration. Tuesday was a good step in that direction. What he did two-and-a-half weeks ago was not,” says Ramirez.

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

On Tuesday, President Biden announced an executive action that aims to ease the visa process for so-called DREAMers and streamline the path to citizenship for spouses who have lived in the United States for at least a decade.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Today I’m announcing new measures to clarify and speed up work visas to help people, including DREAMers, who have graduated from U.S. colleges and universities, landed jobs in high-demand, high-skilled professions that we need to have grow to see our economy grow. It’s the right thing to do. …

The second action I’m announcing today, which — is about keeping families together. My dad used to have an expression. He’d say, “Joey, family is about the beginning, middle and the end” — about keeping couples together who are married, where one spouse is a U.S. citizen, the other is undocumented, and they’ve been living in the United States for at least 10 years. These couples have been raising families, sending their kids to church and school, paying taxes, contributing to our country for every — for 10 years or more — matter of fact, the average time they’ve spent here is 23 years, the people we’re affecting today — but living in the United States all this time with a fear and uncertainty. We can fix that. And that’s what I’m going to do today: fix it.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, Republicans say they plan to challenge Biden’s executive order. This is Rosa Elena Sánchez, a DACA recipient, who would be eligible for U.S. citizenship under Biden’s new measures.

ROSA ELENA SÁNCHEZ: It’s hard to believe that this already happened, but it did. And we’re just super, super excited. … My parents brought me when I was 11 years old, and then I went back to Mexico in 2009. I was already 19. And that’s one of the reasons why my resident — my adjustment of status was denied, because of multiple entries. … When I went back in 2009, I was there for just two weeks, when this drug dealer started chasing me and harassing me. So, that’s the reason why I had come back right away. I did it illegally through the border, so I was arrested. …

If Biden is not reelect, it’s really scary. Just to think about it, I get really scared, because I don’t know if, then, the new president will take everything away from us, and we’ll end up — I will end up in Mexico.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Democratic Congressmember Delia Ramirez of Illinois, where it’s estimated one in 10 children in the state has an undocumented parent. Ramirez is the first Latina congressmember to ever represent Illinois. She’s also married to a DACA recipient who would benefit from this new Biden executive action. On Tuesday, she and her husband Boris Hernández attended Biden’s White House announcement.

Congressmember, welcome back to Democracy Now! Can you explain in detail what exactly President Biden has now put into effect, and how it affects your own personal family?

REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Good morning, Amy.

Yeah, I mean, Amy, it’s a personal — it’s an announcement that hits personally, right? I’m married to my amazing husband Boris, who came at the age of 14, who is DACA. And we’ve been going through this process for about three years to adjust status.

But here’s the reality. There’s an assumption that if you marry a U.S. citizen, you automatically become a U.S. citizen or a green card holder in this country. Most people don’t understand that in order for you to be able to get permanent status here, you have to actually apply through a marriage adjustment status that requires, if you enter this country unauthorized, like you just heard, from the southern border, for you to pay a 10-year bar back in your home country. So, what that means is that if someone is married to a U.S. citizen — as a family, they want to stay together — the current law requires them to go back to their country, with absolutely no guarantee that they will be approved to reenter the country. Anything can happen in that time. And in some cases, people are waiting 10, 11, 12 years back in Mexico, in Haiti, Ecuador or wherever their home country is — in essence, separating families, and which is why there are over 500,000 individuals made up of these households who are still in the shadows.

On Tuesday, that changes that. It means that no longer will you have to go back to your home country in order to be able to go through your adjustment status. You will be able to stay with your family here and raise your children and apply for your legal permanent residency, as well as a three-year work permit. It’s major. It literally means keeping families together in mixed status. It means that U.S. citizens like me who are married to noncitizens won’t have to worry that at any given time, if they’re DACA, that the program ends, and they will be undocumented completely, or if they’re not DACA, that at any moment, in the shadows, they could be deported.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the timing of this, both right before the presidential election debate between Biden and Trump, but also right after President Biden just issued one of the most restrictive immigration policies ever declared under a recent Democratic administration. It shuts down the U.S.-Mexico border, denies asylum to most migrants who don’t cross into the U.S. via ports of entry, and limits total asylum requests at the southern border to no more than 2,500 per day. Can you talk about what he’s done now and what he did just a few weeks ago?

REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Yeah. I mean, Amy, let’s be honest: two executive orders that could not be more different from each other. One of them is restricting people’s ability to seek asylum in this country, which I have publicly denounced and I continue to denounce. I said, “Secretary Mayorkas, this does not change the fact that that EO must be repealed as soon as possible.” And then, one, which is the one he should have done two weeks ago, which is giving an opportunity for families to stay together, helping DREAMers, particularly those that were not eligible, through the timeline, to be able to get DACA, to finally get a professional visa. Two different things. One is about what our administration is doing about the southern border, and actually reacting to Republicans, to which, by the way, I have said, it doesn’t matter what you do on border, and it doesn’t matter how terrible you are or how great you are on immigration; Republicans will continue to attack Democrats on immigration, because this is the number one issue that they are convinced will allow them to win the White House. And so, I continue to say, be the administration that shows the stark difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden as it pertains to immigration. Tuesday was a good step in that direction. What he did two-and-a-half weeks ago was not.

And so, I think we need to be very, very clear. We have to continue to allow people to seek asylum. It’s a human right in this country. Amy, I was in Panama. I saw the worst of the worst situations, women with children seeking asylum. Many of them have made it to our southern border. And they should be welcomed. We should provide resources. We should ensure that we’re working with our neighbor countries to also extend protections. And people like me, or a woman who I just heard who is about to give birth to her child, who is undocumented, who has gone to school here, should be able to stay with her family. The system has been broken, Amy, since the '80s. And it's funny how Republicans continue to say, “Biden is trying to extend, through executive action, amnesty.” Last I checked, Reagan was Republican. And frankly, that’s why my parents are [inaudible].

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Delia Ramirez, you are also the co-sponsor of the American Families United Act. Can you explain what that would do?

REP. DELIA RAMIREZ: Yeah. I mean, look, this is the comprehensive bill to be able to provide immigration reform. And that’s actually, Amy, what we continue to work on. Tuesday was a great step forward. But, Amy, let’s be honest: There are so many people left behind. I knew — and it was mixed emotions when we were at the announcement — that there are a number of family members who don’t fit this category. Frankly, Boris was happy, but if you really asked him directly, he was still sad, because, for him, it extends protections, but for Wesley Hernández, his brother, who’s DACA, married to a noncitizen, his status does not change. And the program ends tomorrow. He is left in limbo. My Tío Chilano, he still, after 34 years in this country, still lives in the shadows.

The bill, what it does, it actually provides expansive, comprehensive immigration reform, bringing the largest number of people into status, many of them — most of them, unless they’re children, contributing in this country, paying taxes. It will provide them a pathway to legal permanent residency, therefore citizenship, work permits. And that is, honestly, the thing that we should continue to work on. But, Amy, you and I both know that the Congress that I am in dehumanizes people that look like my husband, people like my Tío Chilano, and we don’t see Congress passing that bill this year. But we should be doing everything in our power to ensure that if we gain the majority, there’s no BS excuses next time, that we pass the bill.

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