SEATTLE - President Joe Biden signed executive orders Wednesday erasing the outgoing Trump administration’s travel ban from mostly Muslim countries. Biden also introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 for lawmakers to consider. The legislation aims to expand access to green cards for immigrant workers and provides a pathway to citizenship for millions.
Local advocates say many undocumented immigrants are also essential workers facing down the pandemic from the front lines. Approximately 250,000 in Washington are undocumented. The city of Seattle says an estimated 30-50% of the 18,000 undocumented youth might live in King County alone.
"It’s not the people holding us back, it’s our institutions," said 25-year-old Kamau Chege, a DACA recipient living in Seattle.
Chege’s family came to America when he was 6-years-old and he says the Trump administration left him in worry for his family.
"I hope we have a rollback," said Jorge Barón from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
The organization advocates for immigration reform and offers help for those caught in legal limbo or facing deportation. The new initiatives coming from the Oval Office were described as an improvement, but he vowed more work is required.
"We’re ready to challenge the Biden administration just as much in terms in making sure they’re living up to the commitments they’ve made, and to go even further than they have outlined so far," he said.
"Constantly looking over your shoulder," Chege said, describing living in America under Trump’s immigration policies.
Chege says most recently he worked as an advocate to ensure undocumented immigrants were counted properly in the 2020 census. He also hopes reforms can move America towards a more perfect union where a nation of immigrants values them.
"There’s no reason the same people on the front lines of the pandemic saving lives should be living in fear of deportation until congress can get its act together," he said.