LIVE STREAMING
Rep. Jesus Garcia (D-IL) speaks at the “Impeachment Now!” rally in support of an immediate inquiry towards articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump.    Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MoveOn Political Action
Rep. Jesus Garcia (D-IL) speaks at the “Impeachment Now!” rally in support of an immediate inquiry towards articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump.    Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MoveOn Political Action

Drawing a line on immigration

Rep. “Chuy” Garcia is tackling the broken immigration system with firm action.

MORE IN THIS SECTION

Latin America's Tour

September 30th, 2022

More Rights For Cubans

September 29th, 2022

Newsom signs UFW law

September 29th, 2022

U.S. Waives Jones Act

September 29th, 2022

Pierluisi joins Jones call

September 28th, 2022

Latinas talk Abortion in TX

September 28th, 2022

Run Away Ken

September 28th, 2022

Ian heads to Florida

September 27th, 2022

SHARE THIS CONTENT:

Senate Democrats have announced a budget agreement to spend $3.5 trillion over the coming decade via a measure called reconciliation, which allows them to pass the expansive package with 50 votes in the Senate, including moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

While details of the proposal have yet to be announced, progressive members of congress like Rep. Chuy García (D-IL) remain optimistic that the issue of immigration will be addressed via a pathway to citizenship.

Of course, this would only be the beginning. H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, and H.R. 1603, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act already passed the House of Representatives in early 2021. 

“These two bills are the floor, not the ceiling.” Rep. García told AL DÍA in a recent interview. “I will not stop fighting until every undocumented person has a path to citizenship in the country they call home. I will not stop fighting until we disentangle our racially biased criminal legal system from our immigration laws and roll back laws that pull immigrant families apart and result in racial profiling, disproportionate incarceration, and deportation.”

The Congressman spoke with AL DÍA about his decision to draw a red line for this mission. 

“The moment is now”

With the White House, Senate and House under Democrats’ control, García believes that passing substantial immigration reform through reconciliation could be the first meaningful action on the matter in 35 years. 

“The moment is now,” he said. “Immigrant communities like the ones I represent have been waiting in limbo for decades often while working back-breaking jobs that keep our country going.”

Especially during the pandemic, more than 5 million undocumented immigrants have risked their lives as “essential workers.” Two thirds of them have served in frontline positions across essential industries — healthcare, home care, transportation, agriculture, food production, and more. 

While they have been here through the thick of it, García believes now’s the time to be there for them. 

“There is no time to lose. When it comes to jobs, the pandemic deepened the disparities between billionaires and working families even more. And as I’ve said on immigration, there hasn’t been meaningful reform in almost 40 years. Multiple generations have suffered from our broken policies, and the moment for reform is now,” he said.

Pro-immigration activists from organizations including CASA and the Center for Popular Democracy, hold a “WeCantWait” march to urge Congress to act on immigration reform, climate change, healthcare and jobs, during a rally on the National Mall in Washington, DC, June 24, 2021. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
A broken system

COVID-19 revealed the already-present cracks in the framework of the United States, and over the pandemic we have all watched as those cracks grew into canyons. 

García told AL DÍA it highlighted how important immigrants are to keep our country running, but also showed how they have been treated as dispensable. 

“Undocumented immigrants risked their lives during the pandemic as essential workers. Providing a pathway to citizenship for DACA youth, TPS holders, farm workers, and other essential workers would mean providing legal status for an overwhelming majority of undocumented people in my district,” he said.

But even before the virus, the U.S. immigration system has been broken for years. 

“For decades, I have heard the plight of family, friends, and people in my community from the Chicago region whose lives have been put on hold,” García said. “This is for all the immigrants who were robbed of opportunities to pursue their dreams, for students unable to go to college, and for neighbors who are told to ‘wait in line’ when there is no line,” said García. “This is personal for me.”

As part of his immigration efforts, García drafted the New Way Forward Act, which would disrupt the prison-to-deportation pipeline by limiting law enforcement’s ability to collaborate with ICE.

“For too long, our immigration and criminal legal systems have been deeply and fundamentally intertwined and have contributed to the mass incarceration crisis that has separated families and destroyed communities in our country for generations,” he said.

According to García, it’s about creating a system that centers the humanity, and not just the labor, of our immigrant neighbors.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives for a “We Cant Wait Rally,” on the National Mall on June 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. The activists gathered to call upon the Biden administration and Congress to act on citizenship for all, climate justice, care and good jobs. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Chicago is Chuy’s priority

García is one of the most progressive legislators in Congress, but he has maintained that the label has never been his goal. The reason why he drew a red line in July by saying that he will not support a reconciliation package that lacks immigration provisions, was for his undocumented consituents. 

“I am focused on them, not my colleagues in Washington. I am taking this position because of the community I represent and because that is what my constituents want and need,” he said. 

However, García also hopes firm statements like the one he made become the norm and not the exception — that more members of Congress recognize the decades-long struggle of immigrants and find the courage to fight for a pathway to citizenship. 

It’s an issue that he says should not be hyper-partisan, but he’s hopeful. 

“There is already overwhelming support in our country for citizenship for immigrants, across party lines,” he said.

“There is already overwhelming support in our country for citizenship for immigrants, across party lines,” he said.

García recalled a couple of his constituents who would be impacted. 

He mentioned Miguel Perez, a veteran who was deported to Mexico and was only allowed to return to Illinois after receiving a pardon from Governor J.B. Pritzker. 

“A pathway to citizenship means living without fear of deportation and being able to do things we often take for granted, like going out to the store or church without the fear of being detained,” García said. 

He also shared the story of Alejandra Cano, who came to the U.S. as a toddler with her parents who were political asylum seekers. Her struggles with addiction in early adulthood resulted in convictions that subjected her to mandatory detention despite her successful rehabilitation and advocacy for others seeking to recover from addiction.

“Deporting immigrants for mistakes they may have committed decades ago, after they have already completed their sentence, really means punishing them twice,” said García. 

Rep. Chuy García (D-IL) speaks at a “We Can’t Wait Rally,”on June 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Obstacles

Democrats have been fighting for a path for citizenship for a long time. Recently, there has not been a “radical” shift on immigration from where progressives have always stood, but there has been a clear shift away from the obsession on bipartisanship. 

It’s easy to see why: A bipartisan approach to immigration reform has been tried in the Senate and House for more than two decades, but has repeatedly failed. 

“It’s even tougher now due to the extreme anti-immigrant and racist views of some Republicans that were enabled and exacerbated by Donald Trump and his minion Stephen Miller,” García said. 

However, the unfortunate truth is that Republicans do not appear as interested in fixing the broken immigration system this year as they gear up to run on an anti-immigrant platform in 2022.

“I think one of the biggest challenges is the radicalization of the Republican party, and their use of immigration as a wedge issue. If they continue to see Donald Trump as their leader, we can expect the immigrant bashing to continue from Republicans who will use the issue as a fundraising topic,” he said.

García said he’s open to working with colleagues across the aisle — if they are willing to recognize the humanity and contributions immigrants make.

“Poll after poll has shown the American public wants immigration reform,” García said. “There is solid evidence that providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would bring significant benefits to our country. It’s also simply the right thing to do.”

Garciá remains optimistic about the moment and expects to see a path to citizenship in the budget reconciliation package. But again, that’s only the beginning.

“There is still a lot of harm to undo from the Trump years,” he said. 

Dismantling the Trump era

García listed three main points to tackle.

Firstly, ensuring that the immigration courts backlog of almost 1.3 million cases is addressed so people don’t wait years for their case to be heard. 

Second, is family reunification. 

“We need to rebuild trust in immigrant communities and overcome the chilling effects of the public charge policy. All children separated from their families must be reunited with their loved ones,” he said.

“We need to rebuild trust in immigrant communities and overcome the chilling effects of the public charge policy. All children separated from their families must be reunited with their loved ones,” he said. 

Finally, García said the nation must “disentangle” our immigration system from our criminal justice system to address the structural racism in its laws.

He then moved on to who these measures should be applied to. 

 “While we remain focused on a pathway to citizenship, and rightfully so, we can’t forget about those who may be left out of this bill. Citizenship shouldn’t just be for the valedictorians or those with prestigious degrees,” said García. 

Simply put, immigrants should not be gatekeepers of citizenship status. There is an emphasis on advocacy for DACA and TPS holders, but not all undocumented immigrants fall into those categories. 

“The ‘C’ average student working two jobs to make ends meet also deserves a fair chance at the American Dream too. We must end the labels of the ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ immigrants used to dehumanize and divide communities,” García said, calling for a system that values the lives of immigrants, not just their economic contributions. 

“We are a country that believes in second chances — we need policies that reflect that and forgive people for their mistakes, especially decades-old offenses for which they have already served time,” he said. 

To dismantle outdated and racist laws that have driven the mass detention and deportation engine will take some time, but ultimately it is these policies that will lessen the negative experiences lived by Black and Brown immigrants today. 

  • LEAVE A COMMENT:

  • Join the discussion! Leave a comment.

  • or
  • REGISTER
  • to comment.
  • LEAVE A COMMENT:

  • Join the discussion! Leave a comment.

  • or
  • REGISTER
  • to comment.
00:00 / 00:00
Ads destiny link