A group of more than 80 mayors spanning nearly 30 states is urging President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats to protect millions of young undocumented immigrants, essential workers, and Temporary Protected Status holders through the budget reconciliation process. A majority of Americans already support legalization for undocumented communities. Now “it’s time for Congress to act,” the mayors write.
“As our state and local communities continue to confront a public health and economic catastrophe that has claimed more than 500,000 lives and exacerbated deep racial and economic inequities, it is vital that Congress enact protections for Dreamers, TPS holders, and essential immigrant workers to secure the health of our nation and to lay the foundation for an equitable economic recovery for all communities across the country,” the mayors said.
“Today, there are an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants working in construction, agriculture, food services and production, transportation, healthcare, and other essential industries who have risked their lives and the lives of their families to keep our nation running during one of the most challenging periods in modern history,” the mayors write.
They continue by saying that passing a pathway to citizenship for them and their families “not only recognizes the sacrifices they have made for all Americans over the past year, but also the important role they continue to play in America’s economic recovery and long-term global competitiveness.” The Center for American Progress and the University of California at Davis’ Global Migration Center said last month that protecting these communities “would boost the GDP by a cumulative total of $1.5 trillion over 10 years and create 400,800 new jobs.”
“The only way we can truly Build Back Better is to ensure that Dreamers, TPS holders, and essential workers are included in any economic recovery legislation including through budget reconciliation,” the mayors conclude. While legislators are still waiting for a decision from the Senate parliamentarian on including immigration provisions in the upcoming infrastructure package, as noted yesterday, there is precedent for doing so. And also as noted yesterday, the parliamentarian isn’t in charge, Senate Democrats are, my colleague Joan McCarter reminds us.
“It is deeply personal to me to take a stand on immigration; my parents are immigrants, and I am a first-generation U.S. citizen and first-generation college graduate,” Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said during a press call Monday. In 2019, she made history as the first woman and Latina to be elected the city’s mayor. “I saw first hand how my family contributed to not just the fabric of our community, but to also our economy. But now, our essential workers become deportable.
“It is a failure of our government not to move forward in passing comprehensive immigration reform,” Romero continued. “Now, we have the chance to pass a comprehensive plan for those who stepped up to support our country during the pandemic while contributing to our economy. For more than two decades, Congress has failed to act and now is the perfect opportunity through reconciliation.”
Immigrants in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. also rallied for relief last week, including a group of 1,000 people who marched across the Manhattan Bridge. “Today, we are here to remind the Biden administration and Congress that immigrants move America,” said Make the Road New Jersey member Jenny L. “For our country to fully recover from the pandemic, a pathway to citizenship must be included in the infrastructure package. We are essential, not deportable.”
“We already needed to deliver pathways to citizenship before the COVID-19 pandemic, but now it is even more clear that we need to do this for our country, for these families, and for these workers,” Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti said during the call. “Two-thirds of undocumented workers have been on the front lines, putting their lives on the line throughout this pandemic. To continue to threaten them with deportation after all that they’ve done for our country is unconscionable.”
Calls for passing legalization through reconciliation have also come from governors. Following a recent court ruling against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wrote that “the clock has run out, and I call on Congress to do what they must—including using the reconciliation process—to ensure these young people have a fair path forward to legally claim the only home they may have ever known.”