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

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And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.