COLUMBUS, Ohio — Immigrants in Ohio are celebrating proposed reforms to the nation's immigration system, but some are calling it cautious optimism.
President Joe Biden signed executive orders last week ending the travel ban for Muslims, preserving the DACA program and creating an eight-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented people.
And this week, the "New Way Forward Act" was reintroduced in the U.S. House, to reverse immigration laws related to mandatory detention.
Suzy Scullin, co-organizer of the group Indivisible CLE, said organizers in the immigrant community have been working on these issues for decades.
"A big fear is that, now that Biden is in office and that Democrats are in the majority, folks are going to start to pay a little bit less attention," Scullin cautioned. "And it is so important that we don't become complacent, and that we continue on that work moving forward."
The act would also ban for-profit immigration detention centers, give immigration judges more discretion in deportation proceedings, and end criminal prosecutions of people who cross borders seeking freedom, safety or to reunite with their families.
Scullin noted with an executive order on his first day in office, President Biden showed a commitment to reversing Trump-era policies her group believes unjustly targeted immigrants and refugees, but she thinks it's the start of a long process.
"It's important that we look at it as the floor and not the ceiling," Scullin stressed. "This is not law. It will likely change and morph into something drastically different over the next few months and years, as Congress works on it."
Scullin added Ohio has been a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees seeking a new life.
"These are folks who are so essential to our communities, not just in terms of the work that they do but just like anyone, the humanity that they bring," Scullin explained. "They're valuable members; they're active in their churches, they're active in their school systems."
According to the American Immigration Council, 5% of Ohio residents are immigrants, and their top countries of origin are India, the Philippines, Mexico, China and Somalia.