Democratic Lawmakers Urge Path to Citizenship be Included in Relief Bill, Will Not Happen for Now

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(Stefani Reynolds)

By Josue Monroy 

More than 100 Democratic lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to include a path to citizenship for undocumented essential workers, DACA recipients and those under temporary protection status in the pandemic relief bill currently being proposed. Despite their calls for action, House Democratic leadership is not signaling that it will adhere to their demands.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) on Jan. 30, the group stated that millions of essential workers that have been employed during the coronavirus pandemic deserve a path towards attaining legal status and citizenship.

“We, the undersigned members, respectfully request that you include a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers and their families, Dreamers, and TPS holders in the COVID-19 reconciliation recovery package given that essential immigrant workers have been, and will continue to be, key to the health and safety of all Americans during the pandemic and will be critical for the economic recovery of the country,” read part of the letter.

However, an unnamed House Democratic leadership aide indicated that Pelosi is not considering including a path to citizenship  in the relief bill and that comprehensive immigration reform would be proposed in a separate legislative effort. 

President Biden proposed comprehensive immigration reform, which includes protections for frontline immigrant workers, separate from his COVID relief plan, and we expect that to therefore have separate consideration,” the aide told Politico on Monday. 

The push from the CHC comes on the heels of President Biden’s efforts to pass a  $1.9 trillion emergency relief bill which he unveiled in mid-January. As Democrats move to pass the bill through congress, the caucus members are seizing the opportunity to call for emergency immigration reform as part of that package.

“An estimated five million undocumented immigrants, including 202,5002 DACA recipients and 131,3003 TPS holders, are serving our country everyday as essential workers. They are providing health care as doctors, nurses, and home health aides, and keeping health care settings safe and open as custodians, food servers, and administrative workers,” they stated. 

Although Biden has stated his desire to pass the bill with bipartisan support, the bill has gotten opposition from congressional Republicans, who deemed it too expensive and not targeted enough in the stimulus payments it would provide to struggling Americans.

Despite some GOP members drafting a counteroffer for a slimmed-down $618 billion relief bill, Democrats moved on Tuesday to vote on the bill, which resulted in a 50-49 majority in their favor. All Republicans voted against. 

This is the first step in the budget reconciliation process, which would let Democrats pass their version of the relief bill without having to rely on Republicans. Democrats supporting the path to citizenship see it as a rare opportunity to pass immigration reform after decades of gridlock on the issue. They also cite the disproportionate effect the health crises has had on immigrant communities and people of color.  

“The inclusion of protections and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers and their families would boost economic output and increase average wages for all workers, while playing an important role in addressing the disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on communities of color. 

“As you continue to work on assembling a COVID-19 reconciliation package and begin work on an economic recovery and jobs package, we urge you to include a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers, Dreamers, and TPS holders, as well as their families, in order to ensure a robust recovery,” stated the letter. 

On Tuesday, President Biden unveiled three executive orders aimed at undoing some of former-President Trump’s immigration policies and addressing some of the issues surrounding the current system. 

These new policies included the creation of a task force to reunify families separated at the border, renewing support to Latin American countries in order to stem the flow of migrants, and to reform the legal immigration system in order to make legal migration more possible. However, the proposals do not address the fate of undocumented individuals that the CHC is advocating for.

Josué Monroy is a 4th year International Relations major at UC Davis. Hailing from Santa Cruz, CA, his interests include Latin American literature and politics, as well as playing music in his spare time.

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