Mississippi immigrants cautiously hopeful for Biden administration

Updated: Nov. 22, 2020 at 7:51 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - After being brought over to the United States from Guatemala as a child, Pablo Chiguil talks about his love for the only country and state that he knows.

“For me, they brought me over when I was 8 years old,” he said. “The only country that I know is this one. I will fight for this country. That’s what I like.”

As the founder of Mision Uncion Sin Limite, he is one of more than 70,000 immigrants that call the Magnolia State home and part of a group of Hispanics nationwide that hope President Elect Joe Biden keeps his campaign promises.

In the final 2020 presidential debate, Biden said, “Within a hundred days, I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people and all of those so called dreamers, those DACA kids, they are going to be immediately certified again to be able to stay in this country.”

They are promises Chiguil hopes become reality for his Tupelo community.

“There are a lot of people here who need to have legal papers and there’s a lot of people that are fighting for their family,” he said.

While some immigrants wait for change, immigration lawyers hope to see reversals of restrictive policies.

“Coming to the United States as a beacon of hope, that’s not been the case it seems over the last two years it seems,” Brandon Riches, the Lead Attorney at Anderson Immigration Law Group in Gulfport, said.

He says the Trump administration’s harsh border policies have hurt attorney-client relationships, especially with asylum cases.

“We had many clients that we heard from that were kidnapped or held for ransom,” Riches said. “That became normal.”

The administration also expanded the immigration detention system, holding an average of 80,000 people in centers per day in 2019.

Riches said, “They come to the U.S. out of necessity and yet we give them the hardest time. We treat them like criminals.”

While immigration lawyers and activists hope for a better four years under the Biden Administration, some people say they need to see fewer promises and more action.

“I’m not going to trust necessarily that the next administration will be 100% better,” Pamela Cevallos said.

Cevallos immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador back in 2016. She joins a group of people that feel enough wasn’t done while the past two democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama, were in office and Biden filled the Vice President role for 8 years.

“In general, the Democratic Party ignores Latinx people although they depend on the ‘Voto Latino,’” she said.

Immigrants say they will continue to speak out as they wait for reform and broader acceptance across the country.

Chiguil said, “This country is a free country. All of the world is welcome to come. There shouldn’t be any racism or anything like that. "

Immigrants in the Magnolia State also hope racial tensions will soon die down.

“It’s been difficult these four years especially in Mississippi - just that general sentiment of division that we don’t belong here but we love this land,” Cevallos said. “We love Mississippi.”

The hope is with someone new in the White House, more people will be willing to show their Southern hospitality, regardless of which country they’re from.

Cevallos said, “I just invite everybody to meet somebody that is an immigrant and ask them questions, so that way we can know each other and understand that we go through the same struggles.”

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