Dreamers hopeful for pathway to citizenship after President Biden announces immigration reform plan

ORLANDO, Fla. — Central Florida’s undocumented students who are part of the “Dreamers” program could be closer than ever to a clear path to citizenship.

A sweeping proposal from President Joe Biden is one piece of a comprehensive immigration reform Congress will consider this week.

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Brought to the U.S. as a child, Kevin Ortiz proudly graduated from the University of Central Florida as part of the country’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Dreamers program that allowed him to go to college and begin a successful career in banking.

But without clear options or a path to citizenship, Ortiz joins an estimated 800,000 Dreamers encouraged by the pathway now defined in Biden’s new plan.

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“I really do think that the words, ‘here to stay,’ never meant, were never stronger,” Ortiz said.

Biden’s proposal grants DACA recipients immediate permanent residency, allowing them to apply for citizenship within three years.

It creates a process that for so many in limbo, like Ortiz since 2007, has seemed out of reach.

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“So that’s about 14 years that someone has been in this country as a kid, as a teenager, who considers this country their nation, it’s the right time, it’s the right move,” Ortiz said.

Permanent residency offers a host of benefits like waiverless in-state tuition, loans, and freedom to return from travel outside the U.S.

A decade ago, Ortiz watched as the comprehensive immigration reform that passed in the House was rejected by the Senate.

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Now he’s cautiously optimistic as this DACA proposal is just one of the multiple reforms Congress must pass as a whole package.

Congress is expected to receive the president’s proposal Wednesday.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.