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Arizona lawmaker praises Biden administration order on undocumented spouses

Woman in glasses speaks at podium
Gage Skidmore
Arizona Rep. Lydia Hernandez at the state Capitol on Feb. 18, 2023.

The co-chair of the Arizona Legislature’s Latino Caucus praised the Biden administration's order to shield certain undocumented immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens from deportation, but she said more still needs to be done.

The newly announced executive actions will provide a pathway to legal status to undocumented residents who have been in the country for at least 10 years and are married to U.S. citizens and undocumented stepchildren of U.S. citizens.

Rep. Lydia Hernandez, whose husband of 28 years does not have permanent residency status and is still working his way through the legal immigration process, said the Biden administration’s action will bring relief for mixed-status families like hers.

“I think it's good policy that keeps families together, that keep us contributing members of our community, and that's all we want to do,” said Hernandez, a Phoenix Democrat.

Hernandez said the new policy, which is expected to impact about 500,000 people, is a step in the right direction but still leaves out too many undocumented people who have lived in the U.S. for years.

Immigration attorney Emilia Bañuelos, who spoke alongside Hernandez, echoed that sentiment.

“This is simply another band-aid, a good band-aid, but it’s not the answer,” Bañuelos said.

Both Hernandez and Bañuelos said Congress needs to act to reform the country’s immigration system, saying the current process takes too long and costs too much money due to backlogs in the system.

Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.