COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Now that President Biden is officially in office, one of the first things on his agenda is immigration. The new president has a plan that, if approved by Congress, could grant citizenship to nearly 50,000 immigrants living in southern Colorado.
Hanes and Bartles, a local immigration law office, says the path to citizenship won't be easy, but if this new bill is passed it can definitely give certainty to many immigrants in the area.
The bill, known as The Citizenship Act of 2021, would allow immigrants without legal status living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, to temporarily be put in legal status for five years. A green card will be granted if they meet requirements, like passing a background check and paying taxes, and then they'll be able to apply for citizenship three years later.
According to FWD.us, an immigration advocacy group, one in every ten Coloradans is an immigrant, and about half are naturalized U.S. Citizens.
A report by the New American Economy, immigrants pay $347.7 million in taxes in Colorado's District Five, which covers the Colorado Springs area.
"They have been contributing to the economy and to these essential roles not just during the pandemic but always, they are farm workers making sure we have food on our table, delivery drivers, working in hospitals, restaurants, all of these things that keep our community alive - they have been a driving force behind that," said Petula McShiras, an immigration attorney at Hanes and Bartels in Downtown Colorado Springs.
Under President Biden's proposed legislation, more than 14,000 of Colorado's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients could also benefit as they will be allowed to apply for a green card immediately.
"It is really big because this gives them a sense of certainty and permanency that they have been wanting for 15, to 20 years," said McShiras.
The Biden administration also promises to reunite families separated at the border over the last four years.