Immigrants march for pathway to citizenship

Members of New Immigrant Community Empowerment and the New York Immigration Coalition march through Times Square.
New York Immigration Coalition

In an 11-mile march, immigrant New Yorkers, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road New York, New Immigrant Community Empowerment and allies last Friday brought their demand for a pathway to citizenship from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

Starting at 110th street in Harlem and ending at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, the marchers reminded Democrats in Washington, D.C. of their campaign promises to deliver legalization for 11 million immigrant Americans.

“We marched today because we refuse to stay silent while Democrats refuse to seize the first real opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform in decades,” said Murad Awawdeh, NYIC’s executive director. “From President Joe Biden to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, our national leaders promised they would deliver for immigrant Americans.

“They offered heartfelt praise for the sacrifices our communities made on the front lines of a global pandemic but have failed to provide immigrants with the real protection and opportunity of a roadmap to citizenship,” he added. “We can’t afford their excuses, because it will be our families who will bear the brunt of their limited imaginations.

“Washington Democrats have the power to build a better vision of our country, and secure a true recovery for each and every one of us who call America home,” Awawdeh continued. “It’s time they start listening to the majority of the American voters and take bold action to ensure all our futures.”

Yaritza Mendez, co-director of organizing at Make the Road New York, said, “Our communities have fought tooth and nail for decades for a pathway to citizenship, and that is what we deserve.

“Immigrants are integral to our country and should not constantly fear being separated from their loved ones,” Mendez said. “Temporary work permits fall short of meeting the needs of our loved ones and neighbors. We urgently call on the Democratic leadership to deliver on their promise and ensure the ‘Build Back Better’ package includes a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants.”

The rally and march came after the news that the current “Build Back Better” package only includes a parole plan, which would grant temporary and time-limited immigration and work benefits to immigrants brought to America as children, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and farmworkers, but without any path to a green card and eventual citizenship.

NYIC, an umbrella policy and advocacy organization for more than 200 groups in New York State, joined national partners in demanding the Democratic Party deliver on their promise to deliver legalization for millions.

Over the past few weeks, NYIC has launched a video ad; immigrant New Yorkers held an evening vigil in front of Sen. Schumer’s Brooklyn home; a rally in front of his Manhattan office; a four-day #NoSleepTilCitizenship sleep-out in front of the Senator’s Brooklyn home; and rallied in Long Island to keep up the pressure for a pathway to citizenship to be included in the final budget reconciliation package.

A few weeks before Biden’s inauguration, NYIC launched an aggressive campaign targeted at key members of New York’s Democratic congressional delegation, demanding an unequivocal commitment to achieving a pathway to citizenship.

NYIC said its work is part of a multi-organizational and national effort spearheaded by FIRM to transform America’s immigration system.

It pointed to a recent Data for Progress poll that revealed that a clear majority of Americans, 67 percent, support legalization for Dreamers, TPS recipients and essential workers.

An FWD.us report also outlined that legalization would provide $149 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and $39 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.

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