WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden met Friday at the White House with participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as he continues to push for legislation to provide legal protection to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The six so-called "Dreamers" work in health care, education and agriculture and discussed their experiences on the frontlines of the pandemic, the White House said in a statement.
White House officials say immigration remains a key legislation priority for Biden, though it has appeared to take a back seat to other issues such as infrastructure spending and police reform, which Biden is pushing to pass this year. The White House said Biden reiterated his support for two bills before the Senate that would create a pathway to citizenship for DACA participants and give legal status to farmworkers. The bills lack enough support from Republicans to pass the Senate.
This is Biden’s second meeting as president with a DACA group; the first took place on a recent trip to Georgia. First lady Jill Biden also included a DACA participant as one of her “virtual” guests at the president's first address to Congress last month.
In the address to a joint session of Congress, Biden called on lawmakers to extend citizenship to more than 11 million undocumented immigrants or act on separate legislation to secure protections for beneficiaries of the Obama-era DACA program. Under DACA, certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children can remain in the country if they meet specific criteria.
NBC News reported Thursday that the group would include Maria Praeli, who came to the United States from Peru as a 5-year old when her sister sought medical treatment after a car accident; Astou Thiane, who was born in Senegal and advocates for undocumented students’ educations; Esmeralda Tovar-Mora, who was just 18 months old when she came to Kansas from Mexico and is now pursuing a nursing degree; Leydy Rangel, who now works for the United Farm Workers; Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn, who came to the United States from Thailand at the age of 9; and Karen Reyes, who came from Mexico as a 2-year-old and is now a deaf education specialist working with kindergarteners.
The meeting was closed to reporters.