Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

immigrants_essential

Visitors at the 92 ft long #IMMIGRANTSAREESSENTIAL art activation on the National Mall write messages of support to immigrant essential workers on October 05, 2021 in Washington, DC. As The Biden Administration, The House of Representatives and The Senate negotiate a reconciliation bill, the activation, sponsored by National Immigration Law Center & Resilience Force, is a reminder of the important contributions immigrant essential workers make to our economy, our recovery and our communities. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Working Families)

Democrats May Deliver Some Temporary Relief for Immigrants—But Fight Must Continue

Whatever the outcome of the budget fight, immigrant rights advocates will continue to pressure elected officials to make good on their campaign promises for a pathway to citizenship.

Rebekah Entralgo

 by Inequality.org

Following months of sustained protests by immigrant rights advocates, the House of Representatives has finally passed its version of the Build Back Better Act, and with it, a mixed bag of relief provisions for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Missing from the legislation, which is paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy, is a robust pathway to citizenship. President Biden initially proposed such a pathway in his initial framework of the Build Back Better agenda, which would benefit the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants who have been living and working in the United States for decades. The Senate parliamentarian rejected that plan in September because it does not meet the budgetary requirements for it to be passed by a simple majority vote.

Immigration allies in Congress laud the passage of these provisions in the Build Back Better Act as a necessary first step towards protecting and recognizing immigrant workers for the essential roles they play in our economy.

But House Democrats may have just found a way to solve this Rubik's Cube of a policy puzzle.

Under the House version the bill, undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States prior to 2011 would be formally granted "parole." This would provide approximately 7 million people temporary protection from deportation and the ability to apply for work permits, authorization to travel outside of the United States, and driver's licenses. The House bill would also ease the massive backlog of green cards for permanent residents already on a path to citizenship. Due to pandemic and bureaucratic delays, there are roughly 400,000 green cards that have been stuck in red tape. These would become eligible for "recapture."

While far from a full path to citizenship, immigration allies in Congress laud the passage of these provisions in the Build Back Better Act as a necessary first step towards protecting and recognizing immigrant workers for the essential roles they play in our economy. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), 69 percent of all immigrant and undocumented workers are employed among the 55 million workers in essential industries, including caregiving, grocery stores, agriculture, and construction. A pathway to recovery for this essential workforce means a pathway to recovery for the nation as a whole.

"The immigration provisions in The Build Back Better Act will accelerate our economic recovery and protect the millions of undocumented immigrants that have lived, worked, and contributed to American society for decades," said Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) in a statement. "They are entrepreneurs, innovators, consumers, essential workers, and much more—who power our economy and create employment opportunities for all Americans."

Guillermo Garcia, an undocumented farm worker originally from El Salvador and proud United Farm Worker leader, is just one of the 7 million undocumented immigrants who would become eligible for temporary work permits and protection from deportation under the House version of the bill.

Guillermo Garcia speaks at a press conference on immigration on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

"For two decades, I have worked as a farmworker harvesting food for the nation and for many of us," Garcia said at a recent event with Rep. Castro and others. "A work and travel permit means having the security of working without fear and traveling to our native country and being able to return."

"If Build Back Better passes with immigration protections and benefits, I could obtain a work permit and live with more security and relief—things I have lacked during this pandemic," added Amparo Gonsalez de Portillo, a domestic worker from Virginia and National Domestic Workers Alliance member.

Immigration relief for essential workers has never been more popular. New polling from Data for Progress suggests that 75 percent of likely voters support the immigration provisions outlined in the House version of the Build Back Better Act. But popular as these policies are, they are likely on the chopping block, facing opposition from either Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) or outright rejection from the Senate parliamentarian yet again. Whatever the outcome, immigrant rights advocates will continue to take to the streets and pressure their elected officials to make good on their campaign promises for a pathway to citizenship.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Reckless Misuse of Resources': House Approves $778 Billion Military Budget

"There was no CBO score needed. No concern about the deficit. No mention of inflation," said Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Jake Johnson ·


Senate Dems Help Torpedo Resolution That Would Have Blocked $650 Million Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia

"My simple question is, why in the world would the United States reward a regime that has caused such pain in Yemen with more weapons," Sanders asked after the vote. "The answer is we should not."

Brett Wilkins ·


Amnesty Scorecard Finds Twitter Failing to Protect Women From Online Abuse

"As our world has become increasingly dependent on digital spaces during the Covid-19 pandemic, it's critical that Twitter meet this moment with demonstrated commitment to improving the online experiences of all users, regardless of their identity."

Jessica Corbett ·


Filibuster Reform for Debt Ceiling Fight But Not Voting Rights or Reproductive Freedom?

"If our senators are willing to suspend the filibuster to protect our economy, they should be willing to suspend it to protect our democracy and our freedom to vote."

Jessica Corbett ·


As Senate Holds Guantánamo Hearing, Biden Urged to 'Finally End This Chapter of Injustice'

"Guantánamo is a centerpiece of the forever wars. It is a shameful symbol of racial injustice, torture, and violations of the Constitution and international law."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo