Pathways to Citizenship

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We wanted to amplify the voices of Congregation Action Network (an affiliate of Faith In Action’s national immigration program, La Red) and We Are Home which sponsored a “fast for citizenship” between June 9 and 30 to draw attention to the urgency of passing legislation for essential workers, DACA and TPS holders allowing pathways to citizenship. We invited UUs and others from states where they were constituents of some of the Senate offices to join us. We emphasized the moral, economic and humanitarian reasons to do this. With Democrats, we also urged that this become part of the next budget reconciliation process, which only needs 51 votes to be passed in the Senate, rather than the 60 votes now demanded under the filibuster arrangement. To those of you who participated in the 15 meetings we did hold, thank you! We even had folks from Hawaii in the meeting with Sen. Hirono’s staff! Two more visits were rescheduled to this coming week (Rhode Island Senator Whitehouse’s office and Georgia Senator Ossoff’s office). A few Senate offices simply did not respond.

In summary, we heard the whole array of responses — from solid support for the pathways to solid resistance to any “amnesty.” A number of Senators (according to their staff) are awaiting signals about the possibility of reconciliation (the parliamentarian has to agree, but Sen. Sanders, head of the Budget Committee, has already included $126 billion in the budget to cover such pathways). Others quietly stand ready to support this if party leadership says this is the way to go, but don’t want to say this publicly yet. Some are holding out hope for bipartisan support for a narrow DREAM Act, for those now DACA status. Some will base their decisions on data from their state’s citizens and residents. But we made our case.

We support pathways to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers for many reasons:

  • Moral – Unitarian-Universalists live by principles rather than creed and two principles in particular are relevant – we affirm the worth and dignity of every person and we seek justice, equity and compassion in human relations. UUs have a long history of advocated for fair and humane immigration reform. We consider it urgent that Congress pass legislation – in whatever way is strategically possible – to reform our broken immigration system in fair and just ways.
  • Economic – Undocumented immigrants are contributing members of our economy, our communities, our culture. They contribute almost $50 billion in federal taxes and social security, and another $25 billion in state and local taxes, without receiving anywhere near these amounts in services – essentially they are subsidizing Americans. A quarter of new businesses are opened by immigrants. By working in – often – entry level jobs, they maintain economic activities in which US citizens are working. Business and labor support pathways to citizenship.
  • Social and humanitarian – Immigrants have been working at the front lines during the pandemic, helping keep us fed, housed and healthy. But they were initially excluded often from health care access, from pandemic stimulus funds and from the uncertainty of their own status in seeking unemployment support. It is past time to recognize their critical role in helping America overcome the pandemic. If they cannot be legalized and are forced to depart this country, many many families will be separated as so many have been here 10 or 20 years and are part of mixed status families. It is human nature to migrate.
  • Congressional responsibility – reforming immigration laws has been elusive for 25-30 years. This has forced executive actions – such as DACA and TPS — that can deal with the issues created by lack of Congressional action. Now is the time to deal with this.

And frequently, some of you helped to do that. We thank you!

Charlotte Jones-Carroll

Former convener of Immigration Action Team and member of new UUSJ board.