U.S. mayors, including Scranton’s, call on Congress to pass immigration reform | Tuesday Coffee

‘It’s right for our economic future. It’s time for Congress to finally act,’ Scranton Mayor Paige Congnetti said.

By: - July 27, 2021 7:19 am

DACA recipients and their supporters rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 18, 2020 (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images/The Arizona Mirror).

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A week after a federal judge in Texas threw the fates of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers into legal jeopardy, a coalition of 84 mayors from across the nation has called on majority Democrats in the U.S. Senate to bypass Republicans, and provide a pathway to citizenship through a budget reconciliation bill Democrats are looking to pass later this year.

Advocates are pushing Congress “to make sure we we do not leave 2021 without this critical legislation being enacted into law,” Sergio Gonzales, the executive director of the immigrants’ rights group, Immigration Hub, told journalists during a press call on Monday.

More than 80 mayors signed the letter sent to President Joe BidenVice President Kamala HarrisU.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“Today, there are an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants working in construction, agriculture, food services and production, transportation, healthcare, and other essential industries who have risked their lives and the lives of their families to keep our nation running during one of the most challenging periods in modern history,” the mayors wrote.

“As our state and local communities continue to confront a public health and economic catastrophe that has claimed more than 500,000 lives and exacerbated deep racial and economic inequities, it is vital that Congress enact protections for Dreamers, TPS holders, and essential immigrant workers to secure the health of our nation and to lay the foundation for an equitable economic recovery for all communities across the country,” the letter continues.

Speaking to journalists Monday, Scranton Mayor Paige Cognetti said the fear of deportation among the Electric City’s undocumented residents impeded last year’s Census count, and hampered voter registration efforts. The city also has seen economic ripples, as businesses have struggled to keep and retain staff during a jobs crunch.

“In Scranton, we have an employment crisis,” she said. “I’ve talked to business owners who cannot open their doors, or keep their doors open,” because they can’t find workers.

“Why make it even more difficult,” to solve that problem by denying citizenship to people who will inject billions of dollars into the state and local economy, she mused.

At 11.2 percent, non-white Hispanics make up the second-largest share of Scranton’s population of 77,054, according to U.S. Census data.

And because undocumented individuals stepped up to work in such essential industries as food processing during the pandemic, “to continue to threaten them with deportation after all they’ve done for our country is unconscionable,” Cognetti said.

Image of a flag that flew over City Hall in Oakland, Calif., and Scranton, Pa. (submitted photo).

The other mayors on the call, Oakland, Calif. Mayor Libby Schaaf, and Tuscon, Ariz. Mayor Regina Romero, highlighted the economic benefits of providing a path to citizenship for people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA; those receiving Temporary Protected Status, and farmworkers. Doing so would inject $1.5 trillion into the economy over the next decade, they said.

“The farmworkers of the Yuma Valley feed our nation,” Romero, the child of immigrants, said. “Unfortunately, because of the laws we have, essential workers have become deportable … Now we have an opportunity to deliver … [for people] who stepped up to protect our country during the pandemic.”

Schaaf echoed that sentiment, arguing that, after two decades’ of inaction, “now is the time to fix it and prioritize citizenship for undocumented immigrants who contribute so much to our community. They work in our emergency rooms, in our public hospitals. These are the people who have kept food on the shelves during the pandemic, who have literally kept us alive.”

The action by the mayors comes days after Harris met with DACA recipients impacted by U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen’s ruling, which blocked the federal government from granting temporary work permits and deferral from deportation to first-time DACA applicants.

“We will not give up,” Harris said, according to CNN. “I certainly will not give up, in making sure that we stand with our dreamers and that we do everything we can to create a pathway towards citizenship.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Alex PadillaD-Calif., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration panel, told journalists that it was his “understanding and expectation” that a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would be included in a budget reconciliation package, Roll Call, a publication that covers Congress, reported.

“I do think it could be a matter of just a couple of months, if all the necessary steps are taken,” Padilla said, according to Roll Call. “And thus far, my understanding and expectation is that immigration is included in that reconciliation package. It seems pretty optimistic and ambitious, and it is, but it’s also very realistic. We just need a few important things to fall in place.”

Speaking to journalists on Monday, Scranton’s Cognetti urged Washington not to waste any more time.

“It’s right for our economic future,” she said. “It’s time for Congress to finally act.”

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

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What does a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling mean for survivors of childhood sexual abuse? Marley Parish has what you need to know.

With a federal eviction moratorium set to end this week, state officials headed to York County on Monday to urge people at risk of losing their homes to apply for an emergency assistance program before time runs outCassie Miller reports.

During an appearance in Lancaster County on Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf touted the benefits of a state program that’s provided $145 million in assistance to restaurants and bars hit by the pandemic, our summer intern, Lindsay Weber, reports.

Police retirements in Philadelphia ticked upward in 2020, a product of the pandemic and protests, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, a UC/San Francisco scholar answers the question: Should fully vaccinated people still wear masks indoors? And columnist Trish Zornio, of our sibling site, Colorado Newsline, says states and schools should just go ahead and reinstate mask mandates.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, speaks during a House committee vote in September 2019. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Elsewhere.
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The University of Pittsburgh will build more housing in Oakland — but it’s not for students, the Post-Gazette reports.

A lawyer for GOP gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Gerow says the veteran political operative was involved in, but did not cause, a fatal crash on the Pennsylvania TurnpikePennLive reports.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania’s Capital Bureau explains why Philly DA Larry Krasner is unhappy with the state’s settlement with the opioid industry.

President Joe Biden will visit a Mack truck plant in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday to tout manufacturing. the Morning Call reports.

Pennsylvania school districts should heed the latest federal COVID-19 guidance dictating that unvaccinated students and staff wear masks indoors this fall, the Citizens’ Voice reports (paywall).

A Philadelphia man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for murdering Michelle “Tamika” Washington, a transgender woman, in 2019, WHYY-FM reports.

A dozen Pennsylvania nursing homes have dodged a one-day strike by workers, but others may still walk off the job, WESA-FM reports.

City & State Pa. asks the experts what a partisan election audit might look like if it happens.

Awash in tax collections, state lawmakers are wondering how long it’ll last, Stateline.org reports.

After two states and the VA imposed them, are vaccine mandates finally picking up some momentum? NYMag’s Intelligencer takes up the question.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

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9 a.m., G50 Irvis: House Environmental Resources & Energy Committee
12 p.m., Doylestown: We the People PA, joined by lawmakers and advocates, calls for investing American Rescue Plan funding in communities.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
Rep. Nick Pisciottano, D-Allegheny, holds a 6 p.m. reception at South Hills Country Club. Admission runs from a slightly ridiculous $300 to a very unnecessary $5,000.

WolfWatch
By the time some of you read this, Gov. Tom Wolf will have finished an 8:07 a.m. interview on KDKA-AM radio in Pittsburgh.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Have a birthday — your own, or someone else’s — you’d like noted in this space? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Rogue Wave that popped up unexpectedly yesterday: It’s the evocatively titled ‘Nourishment Nation.’

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
Manchester United have agreed to a GBP42 million fee for Real Madrid defender Raphaël Varane, the Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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