Luis Tapia would finally get a driver’s license.
Marilú Saldaña would visit her mom in Mexico before it’s too late.
Karina Ruiz De Diaz would register to vote — something she’s helped thousands of others do, but never had a chance to do herself.
They’re among the undocumented immigrants President Joe Biden has pledged to help with a new bill he’s pushing Congress to pass. The measure would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people who’ve been living in limbo for years.
Undocumented immigrants across the country told CNN they’re hoping the President will make good on his promise.
They shared fears about their families’ safety, dreams for their futures and concerns they have about whether politicians in Washington will actually protect them. Their responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Luis Tapia, 19 • Cook • Lives in: Wisconsin • Country of origin: Mexico
“I’m applying for DACA now. It would be great if there were protection for my parents, too, so that they wouldn’t be afraid of being in this country anymore — afraid of going out in the street, or to the supermarket, that they might get stopped without a license. It’s the terror we’ve always lived with. We came here when I was less than 1 year old. It wasn’t until the deportations under Obama were starting that they told me we didn’t have papers — that I realized any time the police could stop us and send us back to a country I don’t even know.
“My dad is a cook and my mom is a prep cook. Whenever they go to work, that’s 30 minutes of fear not knowing if they’re going to get stopped. We’re terrified during this time that something is going to happen to them. We’re always sending each other text messages that we arrived somewhere safely or made it home.
“We’ll see what happens in the next three months. We never know if something is going to change for our families, and if the changes will help us or create more terror for us. I hope it helps our family stay together and protected.
“The first thing that we would do is get our driver’s licenses so we can drive wherever we want in this country and not have any problems. That’s something we’ve always wanted, to be able to go to another state or another place without being afraid.”
Glo Harn Choi, 28 • Community organizer • Lives in: Illinois • Country of Origin: South Korea
“If the immigration bill that President Biden is proposing were to pass as it currently stands, that would put me on a track to eventually apply for a green card and then citizenship. But I think for me what stands out particularly is the timeframe for that.
“I’ve had to work since the age of 15 to support our family financially. I worked in hospitality — as a server, busboy, host, bartender, dishwasher, delivery driver, and then also I worked as a painter. And I work on the side as a photographer. That’s tough, especially when you’re a young guy. You see all your friends, a lot of them who just kind of want to live their youth. And I think a lot about how I wish I could have done that as well. But really what stands out is that my parents’ age is catching up with them. My mom works in hospitality. She’s a caterer. Every time I see her, I can see how that physical work is really taking a toll on her. I work with people that are around the same age as my mom, and my mom looks so much older than her contemporaries because of the amount of work that she has to do.
“So the timeline for this [bill], what it means to me is that I don’t know if my mom has eight years left to be able to rest, to be able to retire, which I think is a right of every person to be able to rest after dedicating their entire lives to surviving. I don’t want her just to live to survive.
“[As for what I would do if I became a citizen,] it’s a thought that I’ve had to suppress for such a long time because for so long there just was no pathway. It was really just about survival. It’s kind of hard to think about those kinds of things when you’re really focused on not dying.
“I’d love to be able to travel to Korea. I’d love to be able to see and explore some of my roots, because I’ve never had that opportunity. I lost so much of myself because of something as trifling as the idea of legal status.”
Karina Ruiz De Diaz, 36 • Nonprofit executive director • Lives in: Arizona • Country of Origin: Mexico
“The first thing that I would do is register to vote. I have helped so many people register to vote in the last five years, I lost count. It’s more than 1,000 or 2,000 people, because I wanted them to be a voice for me. I wanted them to understand the power that they have in deciding who represents them.
“I have felt voiceless because in Arizona voters passed a law that says I have to show proof of legal residency for in-state tuition. Because of that law, it took me 12 years to graduate from college with a bachelor of science in biochemistry that I’m not using right now. I’m not working in my field because I have to be fighting this fight. My life and the lives of people like myself who qualified for DACA, and people who did not, were on the line the last four years. This fight took priority.
“I dream of going back to my field one day. I want to teach science. I want to do research. When I’m a citizen I could go back to doing that, knowing I have grown leaders in the community who can carry on the work of the nonprofit.”