Latinos in Congress are pushing targeted immigration reform while Biden’s bill is tabled
From the Senate to Congress, Latinos are pushing piecemeal measures that will eventually prove to be more substantial than Biden’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, stuck in limbo.
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, introduced by Democrats in mid-Febuary, would establish and eight-year path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The multi-faceted bill would broaden the roads to legal immigration, reduce visa backlogs, and more.
The politicians behind these measures, either by co-authoring legislation or by raising awareness, clearing up misconceptions and more, are Latino officials. Whether it be because they share ties with immigrant struggles via family history, or they represent districts, states, or cities with higher demographics of immigrants or Latinos.
However, it quickly became clear that optimism would come up short regarding the Biden-backed bill because even with a tied Senate, it would still need to garner bipartisan support to pass. While the future of the large-scale bill doesn’t look great, the package laid the groundwork for what needs to be done, in a targeted way over time.
Biden’s comprehensive immigration bill slated for the foreseeable future, but there is the opportunity to focus on multiple, targeted bills instead of the entirety of Biden’s vision.
That’s exactly what happened recently with two separate bills that passed the House last week.
The American Dream and Promise Act would establish a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and DREAMERS brought to the U.S. as children. The House will also vote on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which would create a pathway for temporary status for undocumented workers in the agricultural industry. The bill outlines a way for them to work to become a permanent resident.
The Dream and Promise act was introduced this year by Latina U.S. Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), along with Yvette Clarke (D-NY). It later passed the House in March.
In the Senate, Alex Padilla, the first Latino Senator from California told the Los Angeles Times that while comprehensive immigration reform is a priority, especially in a Democratic Senate and House, piecemeal fixes are acceptable.
“With an evenly divided Senate, anything that has a chance of passing will have to be bipartisan — at a time when the two parties can barely agree on anything,” said Padilla
He told the Times that especially now, with widespread coverage and political rhetoric over the unaccompanied minors at the southern border, “even Republicans who are interested in changing immigration laws now say they are leery about supporting minor reforms once seen as possible.”
The targeted approaches are more feasible.
Padilla’s own bill, the Citizenship Essential Workers Act — introduced by Reps. Joaquin Castro and Ted Lieu — would create an expedited pathway to citizenship for the over 5 million undocumented essential workers who kept Americans healthy, fed, and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
From a different angle, reps like Chuy Garcia (D-IL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX) are advocating for what needs to be done within the aspects of targeted legislation that have left out key elements. They are also fighting against misinformation while all eyes are on the Southern Border.
Garcia indicated to AL DÍA that the American Dream and Promise Act, while substantial, needs to do more to over-criminalized migrants, and in the future, similar legislation must remove provisions that make it harder for them to gain access to citizenship pathways.
“These harmful provisions will deny immigrant youth, who would qualify for protections under H.R. 6, a better future. Mistakes committed as a child, or baseless allegations should not derail someone's life,” he said.
He went on to say this is why he reintroduced the A New Way Forward Act to roll back immigration laws that result in racial profiling, disproportionate incarceration and deportation with Latino, Black, and Asian communities, and family separation.
In terms of misinformation, Escobar is on the front lines of the migrant crisis at the border, highlighting that it is not only a crisis on that front, but also in the way that it is presented in the media, without prior context of the root causes, and without the reality of the humanitarian crisis at hand.
With record numbers of children at the border,@RepEscobar fights against misinformation.
“We first started seeing pretty significant numbers of families arriving at our front doors during the Trump Administration. The flow has never stopped,” she said.https://t.co/mjbTIVDRB6
— aldianews (@ALDIANews) March 15, 2021
“Americans must finally acknowledge that the real crisis is not at the border but outside it, and that until we address that crisis, this flow of vulnerable people seeking help at our doorstep will not end anytime soon,” she wrote on Twitter.
These smaller moves, while not always based on legislative action, are what will immediately work to reform immigration.