Top House progressives say that it’s not just that Senate Democrats should fight to reinsert a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants back into the Build Back Better Plan—they also have an obligation to do so.
“We just lived through one, almost two years now, of a pandemic that relied, where our country relied, on undocumented people to survive,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said during a rally on Tuesday. “Because who else was sanitizing our buildings? Who else was caring for our elders? Who else was harvesting our food? Who else was stocking our shelves, except immigrant labor in the United States of America.”
House Democrats joined immigrant rights leaders and their allies at the Capitol Hill rally to continue pushing Senate Democrats to override Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough’s nonbinding opinion (not ruling) blocking legalization from passage through the budget reconciliation process. MacDonough is currently reviewing “Plan C,” consisting of 10-year protections. It’s a far cry from the pathway to citizenship promised to undocumented communities deserving of relief.
“The immigrant communities I represent in Chicago deserve the certainty that comes with an earned pathway to a green card and citizenship—anything less would be a moral failure,” said Rep. Chuy García. “Senate Democrats must find the courage to include a pathway to citizenship for all in the Build Back Better Act.” Rep. Lou Correa said that “time and time again, undocumented immigrants have delivered for our nation, even when it's continued to leave them behind.” In her remarks, Rep. Barbara Lee said the Senate “has a moral obligation to deliver a pathway to citizenship for millions for families.”
For several sessions of Congress now, the House has passed legalization putting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, temporary status holders, and farmworkers on a pathway to citizenship, only for the bills to then die in the Senate. But even with Democratic control of the chamber following the 2020 election, the Jim Crow filibuster stands in the way of progress. The budget reconciliation process remains our best vehicle to deliver dignity and justice for undocumented immigrants—if Senate Democrats are bold and courageous enough.
“As a mother of two and a DACA recipient, what I want most is to remain together with my children, without the fear of being separated,” said DACA recipient Eliana Fernandez. “For years, undocumented people have relentlessly fought for a pathway to citizenship, a permanent solution that we deserve and that will allow our communities to continue to thrive.” A second DACA recipient, Woojung Park, said undocumented communities have been fighting for relief for decades now.
‘“Thirty years of undocumented immigrants’ families separated, silenced, and disenfranchised,” Park said. “Thirty years of phone calls, of ‘maybe next year,’ of dreams of holding one another. Why must we continue the past pain of our brothers and sisters, in a fight that already has a morally just and accessible solution … The very best holiday gift would be for Congress to create permanent solutions for the millions of us awaiting justice.”
“We don't have another eight years, five years, two years, or even two months to wait,” Correa said in a press release received by Daily Kos. “I'm here with my colleagues today because The Time Is Now to create a pathway to citizenship for the moms, dads, daughters, and sons who have sacrificed so much to achieve their American dream but who remain in the shadows.” Other legislators at the rally included Reps. Adriano Espaillat, Grace Meng, Dina Titus, Mondaire Jones, Tony Cárdenas, Jimmy Gomez, Jamaal Bowman, Mark Takano, and Nydia Velázquez. All of these legislators signed a letter late last month urging Senate Democrats to override MacDonough. That letter was also supported by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal.
“There’s no more excuses. There’s not other chance. We cannot wait another four years,” said DACA recipient Yoliswa Cele. “We urge Senator Schumer and Democratic leadership to use every tool at their disposal, including disregarding the parliamentarian’s advisory opinion, to keep their promises and get us to the finish line,” Fernandez continued. “For our country to truly deliver an inclusive recovery, we must ensure that a path to citizenship is restored in the final version of the Build Back Better bill.”