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President Biden's Immigration Plan Provides Pathway to Citizenship for Thousands of San Diego Dreamers

NBC San Diego logo NBC San Diego 1/22/2021 Melissa Adan
a person standing next to a car: People hold signs during a rally in support of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in San Diego, California June 18, 2020. – Supreme Court dealt President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration efforts a fresh blow Thursday when it rejected his cancellation of a program protecting 700,000 “Dreamers,” undocumented migrants brought to the United States as children. © AFP via Getty Images

People hold signs during a rally in support of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, in San Diego, California June 18, 2020. – Supreme Court dealt President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration efforts a fresh blow Thursday when it rejected his cancellation of a program protecting 700,000 “Dreamers,” undocumented migrants brought to the United States as children.

President Joe Biden has unveiled the U.S. Citizenship Act which, if approved, will offer an eight-year road map to citizenship for the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, among other changes.

Biden also signed another order that will impact thousands of San Diegans -- the preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.

"Once I saw the memo issued out and shared by the community, that's when I started to smile," said Dulce Garcia.

The preservation of DACA impacts thousands of people who call San Diego home. DACA blocks deportation for "Dreamers," or undocumented people who arrived in the U.S. as children.

"Him signing that executive order to protect DACA really brings a level of hope that I don't think I felt in four years," said Daniela Marquina Cuevas.

Marquina Cuevas, a Dreamer who lives in San Diego, said she hopes citizenship is on the horizon. She was brought to California at 3 years old and has since earned a master's degree and is working as a speech language pathologist.

"Me being able to be a professional within my field could easily be taken away just by DACA ending and just by me not having nine numbers that creates a social security, and that's what has brought me the most fear," said Marquina Cuevas.

Garcia has been advocating for a pathway to citizenship for more than a decade. She was brought to San Diego as a child and grew up in Logan Heights.

"DACA has allowed us to continue with our careers, so it allowed me to practice as an immigration attorney," Garcia said. "We're growing up, becoming professionals, and we're still without a path to citizenship and it's long overdue."

Under President Trump, the DACA program was ordered to end in 2017. This triggered a legal challenge that ended in June when the Supreme Court ruled that it should be kept in place.

"Outside the Supreme Court they were chanting, 'Undocumented, unafraid,' really loudly on the steps of the Supreme Court while the rest of us were inside in a very historic moment," said Garcia.

Garcia was part of the team that sued then President Trump and took the case to the Supreme Court in June.

"With the prior administration I was always scared of looking at the phone and looking at what bad news has come out, but now I'm going to be looking at good news," said Garcia.

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