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AFSC demands pathway to citizenship in Build Back Better Bill

DACA rally in front of Supreme court
Photo: / AFSC

WASHINGTON, DC (November 4, 2021) As negotiations continue on which provisions will be included in the Build Back Better Act, community groups across the country are calling on Congress to include a pathway to citizenship. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – a Quaker organization that has worked for immigrant and refugee rights for over a century – is speaking out against the decision to remove the pathway to citizenship from the bill and efforts by some lawmakers to remove immigration provisions entirely.

“Thousands of people across the U.S. have been tirelessly advocating for a budget reconciliation bill that included a timely, clean, clear and inclusive pathway to citizenship for undocumented people in the U.S.,” said Itzel Hernandez, Immigrant Rights Organizer for AFSC’s Red Bank, New Jersey office. “Congress has the opportunity to provide relief to immigrants, including DACA recipients, long-term residents, and the essential workers across the country, who continue to live each day with fear and uncertainty about their future in the United States.”

Advocates are calling on House leadership to include a pathway to citizenship in their bill, and for Senate leadership and Vice President Harris to disregard the recommendations of the Senate Parliamentarian, who had ruled against the inclusion of the pathway to citizenship. Immigrant communities and grassroots organizations around the country are also reaching out to their Members of Congress to demand that a pathway to citizenship be included.

“Senator Hickenlooper you must not hide behind the opinion of the parliamentarian,” said Christina Zaldivar, a leader with AFSC’s Not1More Deportation project. “We need you to fulfill your promise to fight for citizenship now. Only citizenship offers our loved ones’ permanency and the protection of our human rights. As a U.S. citizen, I believe there is so much to be done to repair the harm of unjust immigration laws – legislation should include a right to return from deportation for people like my husband Jorge while also recognizing my undocumented neighbors with a path to citizenship so no family goes through the trauma of separation that we have.”

Instead of a pathway to citizenship, the House bill currently includes immigration parole, which would allow many undocumented people temporary, renewable access to a work permit and relief from deportation, but no opportunity for permanent status. But parole falls far short of the bold steps that millions across the country are calling for and many politicians had promised.

“The administration must fulfill its promise to regularize more than 12 million workers on their way to citizenship,” said Pedro Sosa, director of the AFSC Project Voice Immigrant Rights Program in Oregon and Washington. “We essential workers have done our part to be part of the economy of this country during difficult times like the pandemic, even risking our own lives. Many of us died in the fields from high temperatures, from COVID-19. We call on Congress to act: a refusal to support citizenship is a refusal to dignify the workers who brings food to you table.” 

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The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions.