EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Young undocumented professionals and essential workers haven’t lost hope that a trimmer version of the Build Back Better Act will give them legal status in 2022.
But just in case, they’re preparing to identify and campaign for immigrant-friendly candidates in the mid-term election to improve the odds of full legalization in 2023.
“The Biden administration made lots of promises during their election campaign and we expect them to follow through on them,” said Juliana Macedo Do Nascimento, senior policy manager for United We Dream. “We are still very much focused on Build Back Better. It didn’t pass last year but we know Senate Democrats are working with their caucus to make sure it’s passed at the end of the day and the immigrant population is protected.”
The organization is made up of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.
Build Back Better included immigration provisions that experts say could help up to 7 million undocumented immigrants gain legal status. They include parole and work permits for those who arrived in the U.S. prior to 2011. It does not have specific privileges for DACA recipients, but they must renew their status every two years. DACA recipients and proponents took to the courts to defend the program when the Trump administration tried to end it.
Under Build Back Better, the so-called “Dreamers” would qualify for five-year work permits instead, be able to get a state driver’s license and apply for an increased number of employment-based “green cards” or legal permanent residence.
“Nobody deserves to live two-years at a time or court case to court case. We cannot live in fear of deportation. It’s about our humanity and our dignity,” said Macedo, who was brought into the U.S. from Brazil by her parents when she was 14.
The Build Back Better Act stalled in mid-December when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said he could not support it. But national news outlets reported this week that the Democratic leadership will be reaching out to Manchin again with a trimmed-down bill. All 50 Senate Republicans oppose the act, so the defection of even one Democrat kills the bill.
And then there’s the objection of the Senate parliamentarian, who ruled immigration can’t be part of the economic and social stimulus bill.
Macedo and America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry want Senate Democrats and the White House to disregard the ruling.
“Ultimately, this is not about the parliamentarian or process. This is about Democratic promises to win a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants,” Sharry said in a statement. “What’s next? Disregard the parliamentarian’s advisory opinion? We’re for it.”
Added Macedo, “Senate Dems have the power to pass a pathway to citizenship through the BBB and we expect them to do so. The parliamentarian is not an elected official; they (the Senate) have the power to do it.”
She said the “Dreamers” have given a good account of themselves since DACA gave those brought into the country before age 16 temporary reprieve from deportation and work permits in 2012. Many have graduated college and are working professionals, mid-level managers and essential workers.
“DACA has shown how far we can go even with its limitations. It shows the need to pass legislation for a path to citizenship so we can reach our full potential,” she said.
The “Dreamers” have participated in political campaigns as volunteers even before President Barack Obama created the program through executive order.
“Even though I cannot vote, I make my voice heard knocking on doors, having conversations with people in our community who can vote and by choosing the candidates I will be supporting,” she said. “We will be focused on supporting our champions. The only true protection is citizenship and that can only be done through Congress.”