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Photo: Make the Road PA Twitter
Immigration activists were out in force in D.C. and Philly on July 23. Photo: Twitter- Make the Road PA 

A national day of action sees demonstrations in Philly and D.C. demanding a pathway to citizenship

Immigrants rights groups were out in force demanding measures be included in President Joe Biden’s upcoming infrastructure bill.

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The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world, according to 2020 data from the Pew Research Center. 

Today, more than 40 million people living in the U.S. were born in another country, accounting for one-fifth of the world’s migrants. 

Of those 40 million, about 11 million immigrants are undocumented, and this population makes up 3.2% of the overall population, but 4.4% of the country’s workforce.

If it wasn’t for immigrant essential workers, in fields like health care, child care, agriculture and food, waste management, education, and more, the COVID-19 pandemic would have had an even greater negative impact on the country. 

Immigrants have been, and always will be, essential, not just as workers, but as valuable members of society. Yet, the fight for economic equality, citizenship, protections and other rights for this large group of undocumented immigrants is still in full force. 

On Friday, July 23, immigrant groups and advocates in Washington D.C. and in Philadelphia are taking part in a “national day of action,” to demand a clear pathway to citizenship.

In D.C, a large group of immigrants and activists will be overtaking Arlington Memorial Bridge on both land and water. Hundreds of immigrant mothers, families, activists and allies will march on the bridge while 20 kayakers row below in support of adding citizenship to President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package. 

As Congress considers budget resolutions to enact key parts of the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, the activists are planning to send the message loud and clear that immigrants are essential infrastructure and deserve recognition, inclusion and a path towards naturalization. 

The Arlington Memorial demonstration is part of a national day of action that includes FIRM and We Are Home partners across the country occupying infrastructure spreading the same message. 

Other groups and individuals involved are CASA, United We Dream, Congressional Action Network and local elected officials from Lancaster, Maryland and Colmar Manor City Councils. 

Beginning on the Watergate Steps, behind the Lincoln Memorial, at 11 a.m., activists held a brief press conference with impacted immigrant leaders, and the march began at 11:30. 

Participants proceeded single file over the bridge, flanking the edge with large banners and umbrellas carrying pro-citizenship messages. 

At noon, the kayakers arrived upstream under the Roosevelt Bridge heading towards the Arlington bridge, dragging a floating banner with similar messaging. Ten minutes later, a banner dropped from on top of the bridge, showing a 360-degree visual display of immigrant pride and power. 

The activists demand that the Senate create a roadmap for Congress to add a path to citizenship for farmworkers, DACA and TPS holders, and essential workers. 

Meanwhile, In Philadelphia, a coalition of Pennsylvania immigrant justice groups gathered outside the Amtrak station on 30th & Market Street.

The advocates urge Sen. Bob Casey, Reps. Brendan Boyle, Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, and the rest of PA’s congressional delegation to provide and protect the pathway to citizenship for 5 million in the federal budget, and to work towards a pathway for all 11 million undocumented Americans.

A recent poll from America’s Voice shows that the majority of Americans from all sides of the political spectrum are in favor of and support these legislative additions.

Seventy-one percent of Americans support citizenship rights for “farmworkers and all other essential workers,” 70% support citizenship for refugees with temporary legal status, and 66% support citizenship for those brought to the country as children.

“Right now is the time for Senator Casey and all our representatives to stand strong on including citizenship in the budget, and deliver what the majority of Americans support: Fixing our immigration system with citizenship for all 11 million,” said Prudence Powell, DACA Recipient and Civic Engagement Coordinator for Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition.

Participants in the Philadelphia rally included immigrants, clergy members, DACA recipients, agricultural workers and organizers representing Latinx, Korean, Asian-American, African and Carribean immigrants and refugees such as the Woori Center, Immigrants Rights Action, Make the Road PA and AFRICOM.

Throughout 2021, Pennsylvania immigrants and allies have been pushing for a pathway to citizenship to be included in the budget, sending more than 1,000 letters and making thousands of phone calls.

On Friday, April 23, women immigrants and essential workers protested outside of Sen. Casey’s office and delivered him a personal letter outline how one woman’s undocumented status creates opportunities for abuse and exploitation.

“Even though I always make the effort to do things the right way for my family, many people don’t see it that way, they only see that I’m an undocumented woman of color and because of that they think it’s ok to threaten and abuse me,” wrote Betania Shephard.

Last month, more than 45 organizations and elected officials across the state sent their own letter to Sen. Casey and the rest of the congressional delegation, with the same message. Sen. Casey responded by committing to the cause at a town hall attended by more than 220 people from immigrant and allied communities.

“Every person has the right to seek opportunity & improve their lives, no matter who you are or where you come from! We are too valuable. It’s time we get proper recognition for it! We demand #citizenshipforall,”  Make the Road PA wrote on Twitter. 

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