Democratic lawmakers were dealt a major blow Sunday as the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, blocked the proposed legislation from being included in the $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” budget reconciliation bill.
Thousands of immigrant-rights advocates, including some with Illinois organizations, marched in Washington on Thursday to demand congressional leaders create a legal pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
Eva Santos, a DACA recipient with immigrant-rights organization United We Dream, believes Democrats have the power to shift legislation with the Biden administration.
“We do not need [the parliamentarian] to decide our fate,” Santos said. “It’s up to the Democrats to not listen to [the parliamentarian] and make sure millions of immigrants are provided a pathway to citizenship.”
Bassem Kawar, a political director with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights organization, visited Capitol Hill on Thursday along with other Illinois immigrant-advocacy groups to urge lawmakers to consider the citizenship bill.
“We are not going to settle for less for millions of undocumented immigrants,” Kawar said. “This has nothing to do with a budget reconciliation. We are going to make sure there is a pathway to citizenship for all.”
Ira Mehlman, a media director with the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington D.C., opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
“[Undocumented Immigrants] understand that when they come to the United States illegally, they are violating the laws,” Mehlman said. “They should not expect to be rewarded with citizenship while violating laws … the DREAM Act basically rewards parents through their children [through tax money],” Mehlman said. “When parents bring their children to the United States illegally, they have to recognize that they are putting their children in some form of a limbo here.”
For now, Democratic senators will offer alternative options to the parliamentarian to open the door for citizenship and residency for millions of immigrants in the U.S.
"DACA recipients that are here, who are still undocumented, have contributed to this country and are deserving of a permanent protection instead of being stopped in the streets and being deported. Those are farmworkers that provided us a meal during the pandemic. There is a big community that deserves [citizenship]. They deserve to have a peace of mind and permanent protection,” Santos said.
Kawar said that to fix a broken immigration system, a citizenship bill must be approved.
“Over the past 35 years, we have not had any type of positive legislation on immigration. That tells you that there is something wrong that is happening in this country,” Kawar said.