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How President Biden’s policy shifts are impacting immigrants

President Biden signed a series of executive actions Tuesday undoing many of the Trump administration's signature immigration policies. This follows orders he already signed that reverse other controversial Trump era immigration items, like reinstating the DACA program and stopping construction of the border wall. We spoke to some of those who are immediately and directly impacted by the changes.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we reported earlier, President Biden did issue a number of executive orders on immigration today.

    These are the latest steps in what the new administration has pledged will be bold reforms, including a comprehensive plan to overhaul the entire U.S. immigration system.

    Amna Nawaz is here with a look at where these moves fit into that larger landscape.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    Today's actions follow a number of executive orders from President Biden that he signed in his very first days in office, orders that immediately had an impact on thousands of people.

    We spoke to a few of them to get their reactions. And here's what they had to say.

  • Jose Aguiluz:

    My name is Jose Aguiluz. I am a — I'm 31 years old. I am a registered nurse that is currently working in COVID vaccinations, and I am a DACA recipient.

  • Mark J. Dannels:

    Mark J. Dannels. I'm the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona, located in the Southeast corner of the state of Arizona.

  • Karla:

    My name is Karla. I'm currently undocumented, but I recently applied for DACA for the first time in December.

  • Rodolfo Karisch:

    My name is Rodolfo Karisch. I go by Rudy. I retired from the U.S. Border Patrol in December of 2019 after spending more than three decades in the organization.

  • Haya Bitar:

    My name is Haya. I am 20 years old, and I'm a first-generation American. So, my family and my sister are Syrian. I am currently living in Canada. We sought refuge here because of the Muslim ban.

  • Jose Aguiluz:

    When President Biden announced that he was going to strengthen DACA, it was really a sense of relief, to be honest. It pretty much gave me a little bit of relief that I was going to be able to stay in the country and keep doing what I'm doing, keep taking care of my patients and everything.

    When I started with the DREAM Act movement, it was like 10 years ago. I'm still a dreamer, and I still have a DACA. So, 10 years have passed and there's still no solution.

  • Mark J. Dannels:

    When I saw that President Biden halted border issues, to include the physical barrier, re-looking at how we're doing business, to include the release program, releasing those that normally would be put back into Mexico or deported or held in a prosecution level, it was a little disappointing.

    And I will say this. I think it was hasty. What I have seen in the past is, those that should be held accountable in the criminal justice system are not, and those that should be detained or deported are not. And then what happens, is they move into communities and bad things happen.

  • Karla:

    There's always been that fear for myself that maybe I won't be allowed to stay here for a while, but there is at least a chance for me to get protection with DACA, whereas, with my family, they will be living under this fear for an indefinite amount of time.

    Undocumented immigrants still pay taxes. They still go shopping, contribute to the economy, and are active members in their communities. And despite all that, we still live in fear every day that we don't feel welcome here.

  • Rodolfo Karisch:

    You can't rush these things. You have to look at what previous administrations did to see what's working, rather than coming in with a wrecking ball to start off with and completely wipe out all of the initiatives that a prior administration has done.

    I can tell you that where we put up wall or fences, it's deterred the flow of narcotics. So, I think that you also have to look at other things that it does prevent.

  • Haya Bitar:

    When I was a senior in high school living in the United States with my extended family, my parents couldn't attend my graduation because of the Muslim ban.

    And when the Biden administration repealed the Muslim ban, it was an immense relief for us. We were very excited. And the first thing we did, of course, was talk to our family in the United States, making plans about the summer, about the winter, about breaks.

    I think, every immigrant, every person has the right to seek the opportunity to come to the United States, to seek citizenship and to live a life of dignity.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Amna, so important to hear these different voices.

    President Biden only in office, what, less than two weeks. Already, as we said, he's issued a flurry of executive orders, signaling this is a real priority for him.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, that's absolutely right.

    It's a message he has sent from day one in office, when he sat down and started to reverse and end some of those Trump era immigration policies. As he said today, he doesn't feel he's making new law. He's ending bad policies.

    But take a look back at some of those steps he took on the very first day in office. He did end that travel ban, as we just heard. He reinstated DACA, the Obama era program shielding from deportation people brought here as kids, and halted border wall construction. He also ended some of the stepped-up immigration enforcement that was going on from ICE.

    Judy, those were all things put into place unilaterally by President Trump and then ended unilaterally by President Biden. He continued that trend of unraveling Trump era policies.

    Today, if you look at the list, as it grew today with those new policies, he created the task force to reunify separated families — the previous government had basically abdicated responsibility — ordered a review of the asylum policies from the previous administration, including that MPP program that keeps people in Mexico while U.S. cases unfold.

    And he ordered a review of the public charge rule, which basically made it harder for anyone to get citizenship if they ever access public support here in the U.S.

    Now, Judy, all of those send very strong signals. There's a change in messaging. We have gone from the restrictionist message of the Trump administration to a much more welcoming message under the Biden administration.

    But it's important to note the changes he made today to policy won't have immediate impact. Why? Because many of those reviews will themselves lead to more questions. How do you handle the case of 65,000 people who are stuck in Mexico waiting for their asylum cases to unfold?

    Where and how do you reunify some of those separated families? Do parents get some kind of protected status? And, also, how do you handle some of the third-country deals that were negotiated by Homeland Security with those countries of origin?

    All of those questions and those details will have to be worked out.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amna, all of these things are things that he can do on his own executive orders.

    But he's also now putting out a sweeping immigration reform law proposal. Tell us what we know about that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Judy, that's right. It's the most ambitious plan we have seen since the attempt back in 2013.

    Here's a quick look at what the plan entails. The centerpiece is this pathway to citizenship, an eight-year plan for an estimated 11 million undocumented people here after they get background checks and make tax payments.

    He wants to expand the refugee resettlement program. And he also wants to increase border security technology. Now, we should mention, back in 2013, there were 13 Republican senators who signed on to the bill. Five of them remain in the Senate. Two of them, though, key members, Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham, have already thrown some cold water on the Biden plan.

    And when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked about the plan, this is what he said. He called it: "a massive proposal for blanket amnesty that would gut enforcement of American laws and create huge incentives for people to rush here illegally."

    Judy, we have already seen a number of other Republicans expressing some kind of hesitation even today. So, if all 50 Democrats unite around the plan, they need 10 Republicans to join them. It is an uphill battle, for sure.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, buttoning this up, Amna, the temperature has been so high under President Trump around immigration. What are the prospects that you're going to see common ground going forward?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, Judy, you're absolutely right. The temperature was raised under the last four years that.

    The Biden administration hopes that these unilateral moves will help to act as a catalyst for the legislative ones. But if they're able to push through any kind of comprehensive reform, it is worth noting it would be the first comprehensive immigration reform in over 30 years in this country — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, it would be such a huge development.

    Amna Nawaz, who's been following this issue so very closely.

    Amna, thank you.

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