EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – America didn’t ask essential health care and food producers for work papers during the pandemic, so it shouldn’t turn its back on them now that they’re asking for legalization, a coalition of progressive lawmakers and Latino activists said Wednesday.
Further, the activists warn that Latino voting rates have nearly doubled in the past decade and will remember broken promises of immigration reform in the next election should the Biden administration and the Democratic majority in the House and Senate not deliver this year.
“Saying our frontline workers are heroes is not enough. We need action. We need a pathway for citizenship for immigrants. Don’t squander yet another opportunity this year. We are demanding immediate action today,” said Sindy Benavides, chief executive officer of the League for United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.
Joe Biden and several Democrats who won seats in Congress in battleground states in 2020 sought the Latino vote, promising, among other things, to pass immigration reform to legalize between 11 million to 14 million undocumented immigrants. The promises became bills, but the Democrats have been unable to pass them despite holding a majority in both houses of Congress.
Speaking in front of the Capitol on a Twitter broadcast, Benavides said U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent are closely monitoring the actions of the lawmakers they helped elect in 2020.
“Latinos are also engaging in higher and higher rates in their civic responsibilities,” she said. “They have learned that verbal promises with zero return is not good for them or their families. […] They will remember when someone knocks on their door asking for their vote. Their first question will be, ‘did you vote for immigration reform?’”
Unidos USA President Janet Murguia said millions of undocumented workers certainly earned a pathway to citizenship by continuing to work through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These essential workers responded in the darkest hour of the pandemic. They responded despite the risk to their health and that of their families. When they responded, no one stopped to ask them about their immigration status. We owe a profound debt to these essential workers and it’s time to pay that debt,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, shifted the blame on the Republican minority for failing to compromise.
“For years they have been telling Democrats, ‘we will agree to immigration reform if you secure the border.’ For years communities like mine have been subjected to severe militarization in exchange for what was promised long ago,” she said. “But instead, we have seen Republicans move the goalposts. It’s never militarized enough, it is never secure enough, it is never safe enough.”
Other Latino leaders said the Biden administration and the Congress should include legalization either in budget reconciliation – or a separate bill if they cannot overrule or sidestep the ruling of the Senate parliamentarian that an immigration overhaul doesn’t belong in a spending bill.
The reconciliation option contemplated a path to legal residency for about 8 million farm workers, essential workers such as those in the health care industry, immigrants brought into the country without authorization when then were children, and holders of temporary visas who came here due to natural disasters.