Path to Citizenship Gets Closer for Dreamers, But Worries Still Remain

Path to Citizenship Gets Closer for Dreamers, But Worries Still Remain

03.23.21
Photo: Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images
03.23.21

HR-6 otherwise known as the American Dream and Promise Act, is the latest bill that promises Dreamers and those with TPS (Temporary Protective Status) a pathway for legal status. It passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Passing HR-6 along with the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which gives temporary protected status to agricultural workers, is a long expected move to a “piecemeal” approach from legislators. The American Dream and Promise Act was supported by nine Republicans and all House Democrats but despite its near bipartisan support, it has been met with mixed reviews from some Dreamers.

While the bill has lots of restrictions, including barring anyone with specific kinds of criminal records, Dreamers also say it lacks immediacy. For those like Viridiana Villa, a Dreamer who is an instructor at El Paso Community College, this bill is a positive step in a long and tedious journey.  

YR Media reporter Antonio Villaseñor-Baca spoke with Villa about what her wait and journey for “legal citizenship” has been like, the impact gaining status would have on her life and the concerns she has about the bill. 

This interview was edited for clarity and length. 

Antonia Villasenor-Baca: What is your thought on the Dream and Promise Act?

Viridiana Villa: I will gladly take it but it makes me feel demoralized. 

It’s not exactly what we would like to have but it’s “promising” for everyone under the DACA program. It’s relieving but it really keeps citizenship still as a dream. 

It’s disheartening because we’ve come a long way and we know our worth in this country and yet we won’t be immediate official citizens. Imagine it as a race: you joined this race without knowing, but you liked it so you kept running, skipping obstacles and keeping up your pace, but there’s no finish line. But you are ok with it. Plus you like running. You know many others have been removed from the race, and some couldn’t even join it. That’s us right now. So if the bill passes, it’ll be like finally being able to see the finish line. 

We are extremely qualified for citizenship. 

We think, work, abide by the laws and live like true citizens of this country but to the legal system we are still treated as strangers, even the bill still calls us “aliens.” We deserved better. 

The requirements are also somewhat based on merits that dehumanize and minimize immigrants in general. It filters out many oppressed, unrepresented and limited individuals. Many have lacked opportunities or even the chance to be able to participate in the requirements, yet they still have contributed and belong to this country. It’s dismissing many other young, honest and hardworking immigrants who also deserve a path to citizenship and didn’t qualify for DACA. 

AVB: Has anything changed for you between these two presidential administrations or before and after this bill?

VV: I honestly feel pretty much the same. At the end of the day I’m still in the same situation as when I joined the program 9 years ago, back when Obama announced it. Nothing has really changed. Different shoes, same pace. A little bit of hope, but that’s all because we are in the same migratory limbo with a very distant dream of becoming a citizen, even after all the contributions and the life we built in this country. I feel like [the U.S.] is home but I haven’t completely moved in.

AVB: In your opinion, what does this bill represent? What message does the passing of this bill send to you?

VV: I’d like to think it represents a little step inside what could be a more humane immigration system. This is not new to us, we have been through this before, and there’s a lot of misinformation, many headlines and announcements are sharing this news as if something actually changed or as if DACA [recipients] are safe now, but that’s not the case.

Many click-bait/sensationalist headlines are sending everyone the wrong message as if DACA’s pathway to citizenship already passed. It’s annoying because seguimos en las mismas [we’re still dealing with the same issues]. For the general public and news in general, headlines and social media posts still need to communicate the reality and our situation efficiently. We can’t afford more misconceptions.

YR Media Statement in Support of AAPI Community
YR Media Statement in Support of AAPI Community