DACA Recipient Welcomes Biden Administration's Immigration Reform Efforts

By Lauren Gilger
Published: Monday, January 25, 2021 - 1:31pm

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LAUREN GILGER: Let's turn to another part of the new president's immigration agenda: DACA. Biden also directed his Secretary for Homeland Security to work toward preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided temporary protection for so-called "DREAMers" who were brought to the U.S. as children since the Obama era. It comes as advocates eagerly await a decision from a federal judge in Texas who is expected to rule on the program's legality soon. Reyna Montoya is a DACA recipient of the founder of Aliento, a leadership development organization here in Phoenix. We spoke with her on The Show just after Biden won Arizona back in November, and I spoke with her again recently about her reaction to these latest actions.

Reyna Montoya
Diego Lozano/ALIENTO
Reyna Montoya

REYNA MONTOYA: I was very happy when I got to see the executive orders and more importantly, the plan that he proposed. That means that President Biden and his administration are serious of getting something done. So definitely, this was a bright day and I felt that my hope was renewed, and I can see a path forward.

GILGER: Let's talk about the legislation in a moment. But first, one of these executive orders is a memorandum that directs his secretary for homeland security to start "preserving and fortifying," I think is the language the DACA program, which, of course, I know you are a recipient of and an advocate for. What's the reaction there? What are you hearing from other DACA recipients? This has been back and forth for so long. Is this a relief?

MONTOYA: It's definitely a little bit of relief. I wouldn't say that it's completely there. After talking to many DACA recipients and being able to see the memo, I'm really glad that the Biden administration used those specific words about fortifying the program because we are still in litigation and pending a decision from the Texas courts. So definitely we know that there's going to be a battle. But at the end of the day, we know that for us to have complete relief, we need to see something coming out of Congress.

GILGER: So this Texas case, of course, is still playing out as you say. So this is still a little bit of caution in your response here. But it sounds like with the administration on your side of this argument, things look very different in your mind.

MONTOYA: Definitely. There's more hope in more confidence from people right now to actually come forward and apply for the DACA program for the first time. People were very reserve about giving their whole information about their parents or people that they love that are undocumented and turning it down to USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) and not knowing if the Trump administration was going to fulfill the promise of not persecuting us with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

GILGER: So you are seeing people now who were not eligible for the program until very recently able to apply or actually taking that step and applying?

MONTOYA: Yes, definitely. On the first three days when the program was reopened, we got over 200 inquiries from people who were interested in applying for DACA for the first time. So we've been supporting them to go through the whole process. And we've been working with pro bono attorneys to ensure that their documents are ready to go and be sent to USCIS.

GILGER: Yeah, yeah. So then let's talk more, Reyna, about what's proposed in this immigration legislation. I know you have said that the overall approach, the comprehensive plan is the most important thing here. This would provide an 8-year path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country. Is this, from what you can tell so far, what you were hoping for?

MONTOYA: It's such a great step. I really appreciated the Biden administration being so clear about the areas that that we need to do in order to start the process moving in Congress and making sure that we continue to give a little bit of peace and dignity to families who have been waiting for such a long time. I think that the way that he's approaching it, of giving a conditional status, hopefully it really signals to Congress that, that he's serious about getting this through the finish line. So definitely, as I said, it's a renewed hope for the immigrant community.

GILGER: Of course, it is notoriously difficult to get comprehensive immigration reform passed through Congress, specifically through the Senate. So as this kind of negotiation plays out, and I'm sure there will be debate over this for some time and what's included in it and what is not, what will your message be to those in Washington?

MONTOYA: My message for people in Washington, especially to our senators, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, is that let's make sure that we don't let perfection be the enemy of good. There is a specific pieces of legislation that have shown more than 90% of approval from the American people, where there's bipartisan support. Let's make sure that we don't get bogged down in the details and that we are able to provide relief for people. We have thousands of essential workers that are TPS (Temporary Protected Status), DACA holders and farm workers that have been in the front lines of the recovery. We have DREAMers that there's bipartisan support around that. So let's make sure that we get something done. And then if we have to have more controversy or more debate on other pieces of legislation, let's make sure that we don't put everything all together, but we do it piece by piece.

GILGER: All right. That is Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient and the founder of Aliento, a Phoenix-based nonprofit leadership development organization. Reyna, thank you so much for coming back on The Show to talk more about this. We really appreciate it.

MONTOYA: Thank you so much. Have a great day.

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