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DACA recipient, Owens react to new immigration reform bill

Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 19:46:58-05

SALT LAKE CITY — President Biden, alongside Congressional Democrats, unveiled a new immigration reform bill Thursday called the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021.

If passed, the bill would create a fast track to citizenship for DACA recipients as well as those under Temporary Protected Status or TPS.

Although the bill faces an uphill partisan battle, Utahn and DACA recipient Aldo Gomez is hopeful it will pass.

"We just kind of want to belong," Gomez said. "We want to really kind of feel like this is our home because we don't really have another home, this is where we've lived for most of our lives."

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The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would provide an immediate pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients like Gomez, among others.

"We would just like to have some sort of security," Gomez added. "Some sort of you know belonging in kind of an emotional, mental and legal sense."

In addition to creating a way to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., the bill would also replace the word 'alien' with 'noncitizen' in immigration laws. Gomez said the move would help humanize undocumented immigrants living across the country.

"We might be noncitizens, but we are people," he said. "We're not aliens."

Utah Rep. Burgess Owens tells FOX 13 he supports a legal pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients but does not agree with other key pieces of the legislation.

Rep. Burgess Owens talks 'In-Depth' with FOX 13

"We also have a lot of people waiting in line right now. What about those folks who are waiting in line, doing it the correct way, where do they stand?" Owens said in an interview with FOX 13. "Should they be put in the back of the line because of this process? That's why it's important to have this done legislatively so we can have a conversation about it."

For Gomez and his family, who've been in the U.S. since the mid 1990s, there is optimism, but also a bit of anxiety as they await the fate of this new bill.

"Every time it comes up to the floor, or any variation of it, we're always a little hopeful. We're always a little worried what it could mean if it gets rejected," Gomez said." You know, what's going to be the opposite backlash of it?"

The bill has a narrow pathway through the U.S. House of Representatives where Democrats hold a five vote margin, but faces issues in the Senate where Democrats would need 10 Republican votes to reach the 60 needed for the legislation to pass.