LOS ANGELES — Hope.
It's the word that Anthony Ng and many undocumented immigrants clutch on to.
For Ng and many undocumented immigrants, living in the United States during former President Donald Trump's presidency was difficult.
Under Trump, many undocumented immigrants lived in fear. They saw Trump separate immigrant families at the border crossing, banning foreign nationals from seven predominantly Muslim countries from visiting the U.S., and pretty much halting the refugee system.
And there was such a constant barrage of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies that no one exactly knew what would happen to immigrants next, Ng said.
"It was like walking through a minefield. You didn't know what was going to blow up next," said Vanessa Bartsch, an immigration attorney at the Law Offices of Vanessa Ortega Bartsch in Westminster.
"It was definitely a scary time," said Ng, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient who serves as a project director at the UCLA Labor Center's Dream Resource Center.
UCLA's Dream Resource Center focuses on training the next generation of young immigrant leaders and provides research, policy, and education issues surrounding immigration.
“We saw so many atrocious policies that criminalized immigrants and separated so many families,” said Ng, who is one of about 800,000 so-called Dreamers, an undocumented person that came to the U.S. as a child.
With President Joe Biden in office, Ng and many immigrant groups say there is hope for immigration reform on the horizon.
Many immigration organizations and advocates said that this could be the time they'll be able to see an administration charting a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, the unclogging of the legal immigration backlog, and more.
"He gives us hope and the potential for meaningful change in our system," Ng said. "We saw so much pain and destruction under Trump. Even the tone and shift of how immigrants are being talked about. It's so day and night. It's positive and not demonizing."
But there's a pause in his voice.
"It's also very hard to disconnect President Biden from his time in the Obama administration where we saw record numbers of deportation and knowing that there was not a clear strategy on how to get immigration reform done," Ng said.
So far, since taking office, Biden has made immigration reform one of his top policies.
On Tuesday, Biden signed three more executive orders, on top of the ones he signed when he first took office, to strengthen the country's immigration system.
The three new executive orders include establishing a new task force led by Homeland Security to reunify families that were separated at the border under Trump. The second order called for agencies to review the U.S. asylum policy and look at the causes of migration. A third order directed agencies to do a full comprehensive review on barriers in the U.S. immigration system.
On his first day of office, Biden signed legislation revoking Trump's travel ban to certain Muslim countries, ended the construction of the border wall, and vowed to protect the DACA policy.
"I want to make it clear," Biden said. "There's a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders that I have signed—I'm not making new law; I'm eliminating bad policy."
Biden's swift action on immigration runs counter to his predecessor.
"What I'm doing is taking on the issues that—99% of them—that the president—the last president of the United States issued executive orders I felt were very counterproductive to our security, counterproductive to who we are as a country, particularly in—in the area of immigration. This is about how America is safer, stronger, more prosperous when we have a fair, orderly, and humane, and legal immigration system," Biden said.
The big question now for immigration advocates is whether the Democrats in Congress can put together an immigration reform package that will garner support from both congressional parties and the public.
"When Biden signed those executive orders, there was a lot of momentum and steam, but now we see how everything has stalled," Bartsch said. "We see lawsuits and will probably see more lawsuits against everything Biden wants to be done."
Last week, a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked Biden's 100-day pause on deportations, according to the New York Times.
Some reports are skeptical on whether Biden can push this through.
His hand-chosen pick to lead his immigration overhaul bill, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, said more work has to be done.
"We have our work cut out for us to make the case for immigration reform, not just for immigrants and their families, but to Americans of all walks of life," Menendez said during a conference call, according to RollCall.com. "It's time to put political capital and every other capital on the table to make this happen."
Still, Biden's action plan is a good sign for the immigration rights movement itching to get back on the streets.
The movement stalled under Trump but expects to pick up as the momentum for immigration reform grows.
Ng said he and his organization are going to do what it takes to see the passage of a bill. He is hopeful.
"Hope—it allows people to see a change," Ng said. "We know it's a difficult process to see a change in the United States. It's going to take a lot of work and effort. Hope is the word that was missing in the last four years. But now it allows people to imagine the future."