HOUSTON - Immigration reform was among the 17 executive orders signed by President Joe Biden Wednesday on Day 1 of his administration.
One of his proposals would safeguard DACA and provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. for a long time.
"I'm originally from Mexico but I've been in the US since I was 6," said Jose Alvarado.
Alvarado, 22, came to the U.S. from Mexico with his family in search of a better life, nearly 17 years ago.
"In Mexico, we didn't have a lot of opportunities. My mom really wanted me to do good in school, so that's really the primary reason why we came here," Alvarado said.
Alvarado is a recent University of Houston graduate and a current biomedical engineering graduate student.
For the last seven years, Alvarado's been a DACA recipient. The Obama-era policy provides work permits and deportation relief to more than half a million undocumented immigrants like Alvarado, who were brought to the U.S. as children.
On Wednesday, President Biden signed an executive order safeguarding DACA and introduced a bill that would provide up to 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship in eight years. The order is a stark contrast from the policies of the previous administration.
"This is very important in keeping families together. As you know a lot of children live in mixed immigration status households. Every day, they’re afraid when they go home. Will they see their parents? Because the enforcement focus immigration policies for the last four years has really been instilling this fear in children and creating tremendous trauma," said Zenobia Lai, Executive Director of Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative, a non-profit organization.
For Alvarado and his family, the sweeping move means he could possibly travel to see his aging grandparents in Mexico again and worry less about his mother.
"I think for me it's just a huge excitement about potentially being able to see my family again. I haven't seen them in 15 years. There's always the fear that you know, if she for whatever reason is in a car accident, whether it be her fault or not, you know, she could get deported. Or if you know, just one of those wrong place, wrong times, it could put her in a really devastating situation for us," Alvarado said.
Biden’s order will revoke Trump’s 2017 travel and immigration ban on 13 predominantly Muslim or African countries.
The order has also called for a pause on construction on the wall along the U.S. - Mexico border.