WASHINGTON, DC — For nearly four years, the Trump administration gradually, and swiftly, choked off immigration to the United States, making it exceedingly difficult for people to come to the country to study, work, and seek refuge.
But on Saturday, after unrelenting attacks, thousands of immigrants breathed a sigh of relief after Joe Biden was projected by media organizations to win the 2020 election.
“I’m a dreamer and I can dream again,” said Geraldine Chinga, a recipient of the Obama-era program that shields undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children from deportation.
Chinga learned that Biden was the President-elect while running errands. “I was just in tears. I was thanking God and the people who helped us vote. And gave us a voice. We can’t vote but right now, I just want to hug every single voter,” she said.
President Donald Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 and was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court from doing so this year. Even so, his administration scaled back the program and pledged to end it, leaving thousands of the program’s beneficiaries in limbo.
Moises Serrano, a DACA recipient, called this week one of the hardest in his life as he waited for election results.
“Today, when I saw, the news, when I read the news, and my friends were texting me that Joe Biden had won, I had just a huge sense of relief. That impending doom and dread that I had been feeling for the past four days now has been lifted off my shoulders,” Serrano said.
“I feel like I can breathe. I don’t have to worry about my family and my status every single hour of every single day,” Serrano added.
“It feels cathartic. It feels like we’re waking up from a nightmare. We’re so excited,” said Bruna Bouhid, communications director for United We Dream and DACA recipient, adding that there was a lot of crying and laughing among recipients. “There’s so much energy on what we can do in a Biden-Harris administration.”
Terminating DACA was one of a series of attempts by Trump to curtail immigration to the United States over the course of his presidency. His administration also threatened to end humanitarian protections for people who can’t return to their home countries due to conflict or natural disaster, and put up a series of obstacles for migrants trying to claim asylum in the US, among other policies.
Biden’s victory offers new hope for many immigrants seeking to come, or remain, in the country. “Hope is alive and well,” said Jeremy McKinney, an immigration attorney, underscoring the daily anxiety among lawyers and advocates over the course of Trump’s presidency.
“For our asylum seekers, for DACA & (Temporary Protected Status) recipients, for all our clients looking for a fair shake before USCIS or EOIR, this is everything,” he said, referring to two federal agencies charged with overseeing immigration.
Other immigration lawyers echoed McKinney. “I’m happy to be able to predict what the law will be like in a week. The ever changing Trump policies are too much,” said Eileen Blessinger, an immigration attorney.