Advocacy group CASA said in a press release received by Daily Kos that the “Welcome Back Congress” march demanded Congressional leaders ensure that legalization continues to remain a priority and key part of the reconciliation package, “as well as investments in the care economy, and green infrastructure that will help fight climate change are delivered.”
“As members of both the House and Senate come back from August recess it is critical that Congress recognize that investing in citizenship, care, and climate justice is necessary,” CASA continued. “Immigrants, caregivers, and climate change have played and will continue to play a large role in the U.S.’ economic and social recovery. Congress must deliver on their promises and address the issues that disproportionately affect communities of color.”
Senate staffer Elizabeth MacDonough’s political, non-binding opinion last week in opposition to including legalization in the package was undeniably deeply painful to millions of immigrants depending on permanent relief now. Reyna Montoya, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and community leader from Arizona, told KJZZ it was “heartbreaking.” Allies were also pissed off, with America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry telling The Washington Post that MacDonough’s opinion “amounted to a ‘middle finger’ and ‘smacked of showboating.’”
“If the parliamentarian is determined to get to no, then the question is, well, Democrats are the elected majority, and not a staff attorney—what do they plan to do?” Sharry continued.
Congressional Democrats had said they were prepared for a possible negative opinion from MacDonough, and had alternatives to present to her. But some advocates—and even at least one legislator present at the rally on Tuesday—have urged Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was also a speaker at the rally, to go at it alone. Worried that that proposed alternatives may water down relief, or that MacDonough will not budge, they’ve reiterated that her opinion is not binding, and 50 Democrats plus Vice President Kamala Harris can overrule her.
“We are here to remind Democrats, like Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, President Biden, Vice President Harris, that they have all the power—all the power—to deliver to our communities. No excuses,” Arizona DACA recipient Arisaid said in a video shared by immigrant youth advocacy group United We Dream. She noted that while she and her brother are protected by the policy, her parents remain at risk due to their status. But Arisaid and her brother are also under threat because DACA itself under threat, following a ruling from an anti-immigrant federal judge in Texas in July.
“Democrats vowed to protect my family and millions more who have been forced to live their lives in constant state of uncertainty and fear,” she continued. “This is why I refuse to accept anything less than citizenship for millions of undocumented people, including my parents.”
“Lawmaker speeches began almost immediately—with a rousing oration by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who excoriated Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough for her controversial decision that leaked Sunday against including a legalization program for eight million immigrants in the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill,” Pablo Manriquez reported for Latino Rebels. “In her remarks, Omar called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to disregard the Parliamentarian’s decision,” he continued. He reported that Schumer was the keynote speaker at the rally, though he didn’t appear to directly address overruling MacDonough’s opinion.
“So I was very angered and saddened and frustrated by the Parliamentarian’s decision, but are we gonna stop?” Manriquez reports Schumer told the crowd. He said the crowd enthusiastically responded that it wasn’t going to stop. “Senator Padilla, Senator Menendez, Senator Durbin, Senator Luján, Senator Cortez Masto, all of us are meeting in a few hours and we will go back and fight some more,” Schumer continued. “So I will say to all of you: the combination of the grass-root strength and the friends you have in the Senate means together we will not be defeated.”
“This is about much more than process and procedures. This is about real people,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley told the crowd, The Post reported. Manriquez, among the scant reporters who covered the event, reported that the massive size of the rally surprised even organizers. He reported demonstrators rallied at “the same location where, on Saturday, a tiny group of less than 50 far-right extremists staged a ‘Justice for J6’ rally that drew way more press after a weeklong coverage blitz in mainstream media outlets.” It must again be stated that Tuesday’s rally for immigration also featured a slate of Congressional leaders. But perhaps that was still too boring for some members of the press. “Asked by Latino Rebels for a crowd count, a rally organizer said, ‘I don’t know, but this is way bigger than we expected,’” Manriquez continued.