AUSTIN (KXAN) — Pedro Villalobos, an assistant district attorney in Travis County, was on a hike in Texas’ Hill Country Saturday morning, hoping to decompress from a stressful week, when national television networks projected that Democrat Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States.
“I missed the announcement,” Villalobos told KXAN. “It wasn’t until I got back to my friend’s place that I saw the news.”
Villalobos is one of more than 120,000 Texans who have been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, known commonly by its acronym, DACA. The Obama-era policy shielded children brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation and has been under threat of legal challenges by the Trump administration.
The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from ending DACA last summer, but the administration still moved to stop the authorization of new permits.
A University of Texas graduate, Villalobos said Biden’s victory gave him and other DACA recipients a sense of hope.
“I think we all are happy that for at least four years we have a friend in the White House,” he said.
Biden’s campaign website says the president-elect “will remove the uncertainty for Dreamers by reinstating the DACA program, and he will explore all legal options to protect their families from inhumane separation.”
Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney in Austin, said Biden will potentially have to persuade a Republican-controlled U.S. Senate to address comprehensive immigration form.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn has said he wants to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients, but without a pathway to citizenship, Finkelman said DACA recipients will never truly feel safe.
“They have pinned their hopes on (Biden) to find some correction to this broken immigration system to help them,” Finkelman said.
Ana Laura Gonzalez, a DACA recipient and student in Fort Worth, said she’s hopeful a Biden administration will achieve meaningful immigration reform but that simply extending DACA isn’t the answer.
“Part of me is still a little cynical, because we are oftentimes used as leverage,” Gonzalez said. “It seems like (Biden) really does have a heart for giving us citizenship and having that immigration reform.”