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South Florida "Dreamers" Have New Hope After President Biden Increases Protections

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - With the stroke of a pen just hours after the inauguration, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to preserve and strengthen the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that gives protections and legal status.

He's asked Congress to grant permanent status and a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

"The fact that the Biden administration took this up so quickly really speaks to the sense of urgency the administration feels toward helping undocumented Americans," said Melissa Taveras with the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Dreamers are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

"I came to the United State when I was 10 years old with my parents," said Lorena Jofre.

Jofre said she celebrated and cried when she heard the news. She moved with her family to the U.S. from Chile as a little girl. She always considered herself an American, until suddenly she found out she was undocumented.

"My mom had to have the conversation with me, where 'you can't go to college, you have to work now'. I was kinda like, okay, shock," she said.

Under the protection of DACA, Jofre's life changed. She has a good job and a family of her own. Under the Trump administration, however, efforts to challenge DACA led to uncertainty.

When asked how has it been for her over the last four years, Jofre said, "It's been kind of a roller coaster because we just were always in limbo. We didn't know what has going to happen. No, we're going to keep the program, no, we're going to take it away."

Biden has called on Congress to pass his sweeping comprehensive immigration reform that will include legal status and a path to citizenship for up to 11 million people.

Taveras said she's thrilled that President Biden has called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a fast path to citizenship. Tavares said she's encouraged but cautious.

"We also understand that it's just the first step. This is just a proposed piece of legislation that still needs to go through the House, it still needs to be approved by the Senate," said Tavares.

Joffe is watching closely.

"I'm hopeful, I think the consensus is hope. It's so different from the last four years so I'm going to remain hopeful, let's see what happens," she said.

Senator Marco Rubio has already called President Biden's plan a "non-starter." He said we need immigration laws that will be followed and enforced. Senator Rick Scott called it a "radical immigration agenda" but added that we need long term solutions to TPS and DACA.

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