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Protesters holding a banner that reads, "A Path to Citizenship for All" at a silent demonstration in Manhattan on February 25, 2021.

Protesters holding a banner that reads, "A Path to Citizenship for All" at a silent demonstration in Manhattan on February 25, 2021. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

150 Former Aides, Surrogates Urge Sanders to Help Secure Citizenship Pathway for Undocumented Immigrants

"Undocumented workers and their families continue to face the possibility of deportation and family separation. This is unacceptable."

Jake Johnson

A large coalition of former staffers and surrogates from Sen. Bernie Sanders' two presidential campaigns are calling on the Vermont senator to use his new position as chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee to prioritize securing a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

Specifically, the 150 former campaign aides, volunteers, and surrogates are pushing Sanders to fight for sweeping immigration reform using the filibuster-proof reconciliation process, over which the head of the budget committee has significant influence.

"You can address this moral failure during this year's budget reconciliation process—we urge you to act immediately to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants this year."
—Letter to Sen. Bernie Sanders

"It is because we are willing to fight for someone else as much as we are willing to fight for ourselves that we write to you today," the group wrote in a letter (pdf) Monday, referencing a slogan that became central to Sanders' 2020 presidential bid. "Our vision of the political revolution, among several other things, includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S."

"For decades, including nearly a year into this pandemic, our government has failed to meet the needs of the undocumented community in the U.S., thus creating an underclass in our country," the letter reads. "You can address this moral failure during this year's budget reconciliation process—we urge you to act immediately to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants this year."

Letter co-author Erika Andiola, who served as Press Secretary for Latino Outreach on Sanders' 2016 campaign, told Politico that the pathway to citizenship must be approved using the budget reconciliation process—which requires just a simple-majority vote—because there is little chance that Senate Democrats could convince 10 Republicans to join them in passing a sufficiently bold immigration bill through regular order.

"We have zero faith that Republicans, better known recently as the party of Donald Trump, will vote for any legislation that provides protection for the undocumented community," said Andiola, now the chief advocacy officer for immigrant rights group RAICES.

Signed by prominent Sanders surrogates such as actor Mark Ruffalo, former Wisconsin congressional candidate Randy Bryce, and documentary filmmaker Josh Fox, the letter comes as the Senate Democratic caucus is using the budget reconciliation process in an attempt to pass a nearly $2 trillion coronavirus relief package without GOP support.

In a late January, a group of 100 lawmakers led by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus urged the House Democratic leadership to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers, Dreamers, and temporary protected status (TPS) recipients in the coronavirus relief package.

The demanded reform was ultimately left out of the $1.9 trillion legislation that the House passed on Friday.

While sweeping immigration changes are not likely to make it into the pending relief bill, Sanders—whose 2020 presidential platform included a "swift, fair pathway to citizenship" for undocumented people—has indicated that he is preparing to quickly move forward with a second reconciliation bill after Congress completes work on and passes the coronavirus relief package.

As the Washington Post reported last month, the "next package could be far pricier than the coronavirus bill."

"Although plans remain fluid, it's expected to center on a major infrastructure investment, while also tackling other priorities such as clean energy, domestic manufacturing, and child and elder care," the Post noted. "However, as the next must-pass bill in a divided Congress, where legislative opportunities will be scarce, it has unleashed a torrent of other demands, as advocates for issues from climate change to immigration push to get included."

In their letter on Monday, the former Sanders campaign staffers and surrogates lamented that undocumented people have been "left out of financial relief bills including the CARES Act and HEROES Act of 2020" despite their major contributions to U.S. society during the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has created the biggest financial and health crisis of our lifetimes, and undocumented people have been left behind," the letter reads. "More than five million undocumented workers have been working in essential industries during the pandemic. Undocumented workers have kept our nation running while bearing the health risks on a daily basis."

"On top of the health-related risks, undocumented workers and their families continue to face the possibility of deportation and family separation," the letter continues. "This is unacceptable."

Read the full letter:

We, the undersigned staffers, surrogates, volunteers, and organizations who supported your 2016 and/or 2020 presidential campaigns, urge you to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants this year during the Budget Reconciliation process that you now lead as Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

The Bernie Sanders 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns were historic and hold treasured memories for many of us. We are proud of the political revolution we ignited across the country and the unprecedented work we did to engage voters and volunteers. We were moved when after your hospitalization, during the "Bernie Is Back" rally in NYC, you challenged us and the rest of the country with a simple question: Are you willing to fight for someone else as much as you are willing to fight for yourselves?

We are proud of the work we did to reach voters, especially voters of color, as the Bernie 2016 and 2020 campaign proved that nontraditional voters can be engaged as long as the outreach is done with integrity and meets the needs of specific constituencies.

We remember the Latinx and Muslim voters who overwhelmingly supported you during the satellite caucuses in Iowa, which led to a popular vote victory in one of the least diverse states in the nation. We remember the Latinx voters in Nevada, especially the culinary workers who marched with you to the polls despite opposition from their union, and gave the campaign are sounding win with over 60% of the Latinx vote in a crowded field of candidates. We remember that even on Super Tuesday and on, as the tide turned against us, eligible immigrant voters still believed in the political revolution and showed up for our campaign in states like California, Arizona, and Texas.

It is because we are willing to fight for someone else as much as we are willing to fight for ourselves that we write to you today. Our vision of the political revolution, among several other things, includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S.

For several decades, our political system has failed to deliver a permanent solution to the immigration issue. Democrats have not fulfilled the promises they have made to the immigrant community and Republicans continue to scapegoat immigrants for political gains.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created the biggest financial and health crisis of our lifetimes, and undocumented people have been left behind. More than five million undocumented workers have been working in essential industries during the pandemic. Undocumented workers have kept our nation running while bearing the health risks on a daily basis. Despite these contributions, undocumented immigrants have been left out of financial relief bills including the CARES Act and HEROES Act of 2020.

On top of the health-related risks, undocumented workers and their families continue to face the possibility of deportation and family separation.

This is unacceptable.

For decades, including nearly a year into this pandemic, our government has failed to meet the needs of the undocumented community in the U.S., thus creating an underclass in our country. You can address this moral failure during this year's budget reconciliation process—we urge you to act immediately to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants this year.


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