Nov 22, 2021
Following a series of immigrant rights protests in cities across the U.S. in recent weeks over the exclusion of a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act, a group of 90 Democratic U.S. House lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to leading Senate Democrats urging them to restore the key provision in their version of the flagship budget reconciliation bill.
"We cannot forget our ongoing fight for the millions of immigrants who are waiting for a pathway to citizenship."
Hailing the Build Back Better Act as "a historic piece of legislation," the letter--which is led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and is addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)--notes that the House version of the bill "limits relief for certain undocumented individuals to a five-year parole status, yet another form of temporary reprieve."
"We now write to urge you and the rest of our colleagues in the Senate to reinstate a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, [Temporary Protected Status] holders, farmworkers, and essential workers in the Senate's version of the reconciliation bill," the lawmakers continue.
"The reconciliation bill is an especially suitable vehicle for providing this relief," the letter argues. "Under the Constitution, Congress alone holds the power to determine who can become a citizen, and under what conditions. So when Congress promises 'immigration reform,' as it has done throughout the negotiation process, our party must fully deliver on that promise."
\u201cImmigrant communities have waited long enough and #TheTimeIsNow to deliver for them.\n\nThat's why I joined my colleagues @RepAOC, @RepLouCorrea, @RepEspaillat, and @RepGraceMeng in this letter calling on Senate leadership to ensure that a pathway to citizenship is included in BBB.\u201d— Congressman Chuy Garc\u00eda (@Congressman Chuy Garc\u00eda) 1637626844
"For decades, immigrants have sought relief from the precarity of jumping from one temporary status to another in the only country they can call home," the authors add. "Another temporary status would merely extend this precarity."
The letter continues:
Whether we keep our promise or not is a question of political will. We do understand that the Senate parliamentarian has issued a memorandum dismissing--despite evidence to the contrary--the budgetary impact of providing a pathway to citizenship. But the role of the parliamentarian is an advisory one, and the parliamentarian's opinion is not binding...
Both federal law and Senate precedent provide that the Senate's presiding officer can issue a different binding ruling on such a parliamentary point of order. We cannot let an unelected adviser determine which promises we fulfill and which we do not, especially when the vast majority of Americans--in both parties--want us to provide a pathway to citizenship.
"The moment is now," the lawmakers assert. "We urge you to reinstate a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and essential workers in the Senate's version of the reconciliation bill."
In a statement, Ocasio-Cortez said that "throughout these past few months, Bronx and Queens families, as well as our grassroots immigrant advocates, have been united and unfaltering in their message: Democrats promised a pathway to citizenship, and we must deliver one."
"As this bill heads to the Senate, we must fight to ensure that we do not squander this once-in-a-generation opportunity," she added.
\u201c2/2 Now, it\u2019s on to the Senate. They can and must pass a version that includes a pathway to citizenship that begins with green cards. Temporary protections are not enough. We fight on!\n\n#BuildBackBetter #WeCantWait\u201d— CPD Action \ud83d\udca5 (@CPD Action \ud83d\udca5) 1637341301
Rep. Jesus "Chuy" Garcia (D-Ill.) said that although the reconciliation bill passed by the House last week "delivers urgently needed relief to undocumented immigrants, it falls short of the pathway to citizenship that I've been fighting for and that immigrants deserve."
The House bill permits undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. since at least 2011 to remain and work in the country for up to 10 years.
"It means families separated for decades can finally be reunited, workers can speak out against abuses without fear of retaliation, and immigrants can wake up every morning with some peace of mind," he asserted.
"Immigrants who keep our country running deserve to call America home," Garcia added. "Senate Democrats must find the courage to deliver permanent solutions and include a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act."
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that "we cannot forget our ongoing fight for the millions of immigrants who are waiting for a pathway to citizenship."
"I urge the Senate to reinstate this crucial provision as the chamber works on its version of the legislation," she continued. "The fight to build back better cannot end with the House's passage of the bill. We must ensure that no one is left behind as our nation works to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, and temporary status and time-limited immigration protections fail to help immigrants achieve their shot at the American Dream. We must get this done!"
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