STOCKTON, Calif — Undocumented at 6 years old, Stephanie Guzman came with her mother and sister to Oakland from Mexico seeking a better life. She knew no English but quickly excelled at one subject.
"The only thing I understood was math because I saw numbers and I could figure it out. And, I was pretty advanced in my class," Guzman said.
Now 23, the so-called "Dreamer" from Tracy has a college degree in Communication Disorders Speech Pathology and hopes President Joe Biden's administration will pave the way for her to become an American citizen.
"That makes me excited for this new upcoming years and hopefully for everybody, this brings a lot of hope and good things," Guzman said.
Guzman is one of more than 800,000 undocumented young people who were brought to the United States by their parents. Under Biden's plan, Dreamers could gain a green card or temporary legal status immediately, and citizenship in three years.
For all others living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, it would be five years for a green card and another three if they chose to become US citizens.
"I think that for Dreamers, many of us know those young folks are here for no fault of their own. Many of them have already received the benefit of being here by getting an education. They own businesses. They've established roots," said Jose Rodriguez, President & CEO, El Concilio, Stockton.
But, the Washington D.C.-based non-profit Conservative Center for Immigration Studies believes Biden's plan amounts to so-called "blanket amnesty."
"His bill though has no enforcement tool whatsoever. In other words, it's just amnesty. Anybody who was here before the first of this year, anybody, any illegal immigrant who came three weeks ago will qualify for this amnesty," said Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Krikorian also believes that an enforcement tool for future undocumented immigrants must be in place first before any legislation is passed. He does agree the Dreamers portion of immigration reform can happen, but in a slimmed down form excluding teens.
"Kids who came before 7 or before 10 years old so that they went almost all of their schooling in the United States," said Krikorian, "The rationale of a Dream Act is that these are kids whose psychological and emotional development took place here from scratch."
"Most of these folks, in order to be eligible, are going to have to have paid taxes, going to show they had no criminal records. They're going to have to go through a background check. So, it's not like these folks are being waved in," Rodriguez retorted.
Guzman suffered facial paralysis as a child. She hopes to one day become a therapist to help others recover from difficulties as she did.
"[I want to] open a practice that I can help low-income families somehow, some way," Guzman said.
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