Groups said that in New York City, 1,000 people marched across the Manhattan Bridge after rallying in Columbus Park. In a powerful video shared by Make the Road New York, a large crowd is seen walking down the bridge while holding a sign reading, “Immigrants are essential!” That’s just a fact: Findings last year showed that as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants have served as essential workers amid the pandemic.
But even though they’ve been deemed essential by the government, they’ve been shut out of both emergency pandemic relief and permanent protections. (Some way to say “thank you.”) Immigrants and their allies say reconciliation is the best chance in years to change this and pass a pathway to citizenship.
“I am part of a mixed-status family—my daughters are legal permanent residents, and I am undocumented,” Make the Road New Jersey member Jenny L. said in the statement. “Today, we are here to remind the Biden administration and Congress that immigrants move America. For our country to fully recover from the pandemic, a pathway to citizenship must be included in the infrastructure package. We are essential, not deportable. We call on Senator Bob Menendez and Senator Cory Booker to continue demanding a pathway to citizenship for all.”
Activists also marched on Arlington Memorial Bridge in D.C., where FIRM Action said that demonstrators rallied to send the message that “immigrants are essential infrastructure.” AL DÍA reported that “[p]articipants proceeded single file over the bridge, flanking the edge with large banners and umbrellas carrying pro-citizenship messages.” Among activists Friday were Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, who have once again had their lives thrown into chaos following a decision against the program by an anti-immigrant federal judge in Texas. That decision only heightens the need for Congress to act on permanent relief.
“For me and millions of others, including DACA recipients, DACA-eligible youth, and people like my parents who never qualified for DACA in the first place, DACA has never been enough,” Diana Atenco-Gonzalez said in the statement. “It’s not enough for me to have permanent protections. My parents need and deserve citizenship too. We deserve to be together as a family and to live freely in the place we call home. That’s why I’m demanding citizenship for millions of undocumented people, including immigrant youth, TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers.”
During a Senate hearing last week on the vital role of immigrant farmworkers, California Sen. Alex Padilla called it “fundamentally wrong” for the federal government to deem undocumented immigrant workers essential, yet still deny them protections. “More than half a million farmworkers, more than half a million essential farmworkers, per the U.S. government, contracted the coronavirus, and thousands of them lost their lives,” Padilla said. “Farmworkers—and all of those who served in front line jobs during the pandemic—deserve better: they deserve respect, they deserve our gratitude, they deserve security, and they deserve a pathway to citizenship.”
“Today, immigrant essential workers marched with a clear message: the recovery of our country must include long awaited immigration relief,” Make the Road New York Co-executive Director Jose Lopez said. “Our neighbors and loved ones have been waiting for decades for a path to citizenship that they deserve. Throughout the pandemic immigrant essential workers put their life on the line to keep our communities safe. On the heels of a devastating DACA decision, and as we move forward the reconciliation process, we urge Congress to use all means necessary to deliver a path to citizenship to millions of undocumented people this year.”
We do not yet know what the Senate parliamentarian will decide when it comes to passing immigration provisions through reconciliation. There is precedent for it, and as my colleague Joan McCarter reminds Senate Democrats, the parliamentarian isn’t in charge, they are.