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Biden's immigration proposal prompts mixed reaction from Nevadans

Posted at 8:16 PM, Jan 21, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A new administration in the White House, a new immigration plan.

President Joe Biden has proposed a plan that would lay the groundwork for millions of immigrants to have a path to citizenship.

The plan applies to young men and women who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), also known as DREAMers, as well as people working to get their residency, and eventually their citizenship, in eight years.

RELATED: Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants without legal status

Other undocumented immigrants in the United States since Jan. 1 would be eligible for Green Cards.

The plan is considered historic -- the last time the U.S. had something similar was back in 1986 under then-President Ronald Reagan -- and it's receiving a mixed reaction across the nation, as well as in Nevada.

"The Nevada Republican Party is disappointed in his proposals," said the party's vice-chair, Jim Hindle.

"We are strongly in favor of legal immigration and providing incentives for people to immigrate to the United States," Hindle added, "but we have great reservations to opening the border and providing amnesty, services and incentives for all illegal immigrants."

The immigrant community says it has been waiting for this and hopes it will become a reality. Just in the last 48 hours, the Immigration House Foundation has been inundated with phone calls from Las Vegas area immigrants who have questions about the president’s proposal.

Folks there say interest in the plan has spiked and they feel people are not as fearful to ask for information as they were in past years.

RELATED: Nevada promises protection for undocumented immigrants during vaccine distribution

“The majority of people are hardworking people," said Ruben Kihuen, director of external affairs at the nonprofit.

"If you look down the Las Vegas Strip, the success story that it is today is because of hard-working immigrants," he said. "And they deserve an opportunity to thrive in this country."

"This is their country, this is their home,” said Kihuen.

Still, some fear the plan will place a burden on other U.S. citizens.

"Yes, we understand you were brought here," said Sun City Conservatives Club President Brenda Flank of DREAMers. "Your parents brought you here and they did not go through the process."

"But what are you doing?" she asked.

"What is available for them to actually become legal," continued Flank. "I look at DACA as a blanket to say, 'Ok, you’re legal. You're a citizen.' I got a problem with that."

DREAM Big Nevada Executive Director Astrid Silva says there is no clear path for DREAMers to become citizens and the Biden plan would address that.

"It is possible in very, very, very slim cases," said Silva, "but there is not a pathway of citizenship if you have DACA."

"When people tell me to get in the back of the line, I would gladly go back to the line," added Silva, who is a DREAMer. "But there is no line that exists at this time."

"With this plan, now there would be one line," she explained.

RELATED: DACA recipients eager for rights in 2021

As for Kihuen, he says a lot of the people that IHF serves have already been waiting 10, 15, 20 years, and most of them are willing to wait eight years.

The details of the bill have not been released just yet and it still has to be introduced in Congress.

But Kihuen says, if the past is any indicator, it will likely provide an opportunity for those who stay out of trouble, are law-abiding, willing to pay any back taxes or fines, doesn't have a criminal record, can pass a background check and are willing to learn English.

Lawmakers will have to start working on the bill to possibly be discussed by both the House and Senate.

More details are expected in the coming weeks.