‘We Don’t Accept That’: Immigrants’ rights group wants action now on reform | Monday Morning Coffee

Congress has fumbled immigration reform for decades. One Pa. advocacy group is long past tired of waiting

October 11, 2021 7:17 am

(Photo courtesy of MILPA)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Millions of undocumented individuals across the nation, including here in Pennsylvania, were dealt a massive setback late last month when the U.S. Senate’s parliamentarian turned down a plan to include a pathway to citizenship in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package now pending on Capitol Hill.

Late last week, U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif.vowed not to give up on getting a path to citizenship included in the sweeping budget package, the Sacramento Bee reported.

“We’re going to keep fighting. I know the parliamentarian said ‘no’ to an initial proposal that we had in front of her, but there’s still a number of different options that I think fit the criteria for budget consideration,” Padilla, one of Congress’ strongest reform voices, told the newspaper.

Colorado’s two Democratic U.S. senators also voiced support for ongoing reform efforts last week, though neither offered a specific timeline nor a strategy, according to Colorado Newsline, a sibling site of the Capital-Star.

Nonetheless, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper both expressed support for “Dreamers,” or undocumented individuals who were brought to the U.S. as children without legal documentation and have temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, Colorado Newsline reported.

That movement, however incremental, may come as welcome news to Desi Burnette, the statewide coordinator for the advocacy group, the Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania, or MILPA.

Speaking to the Capital-Star last week, Burnette called on lawmakers to ignore the recommendation from Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who said including the immigration policy changes in the reconciliation bill would “far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it.”

Burnette’s organization is planning a march and rally in Harrisburg on Tuesday to call for action. The event starts at 5 p.m. at 1425 Market Street in Harrisburg. The group plans to march down Market Street to Third and Walnut Streets near the state Capitol for a vigil that’s planned to start at 6 p.m.

Our conversation with Burnette below, has been lightly edited for content and clarity.

DENVER, COLORADO – JULY 02: (L-R) Lupe Lopez, Amy Bautista 3 and Jose Louis Garcia at the #CloseTheCamps United We Dream, American Friends Service Committee, and Families Belong Together led protests across the country at members of Congress’s offices to demand the closure of inhumane immigrant detention centers that subject children and families to horrific conditions. Constituents delivered a letter asking the members to visit a detention facility this week, stop funding family detention and deportation, and use all their powers to close the camps on July 02, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Tom Cooper/Getty Images for Civic Action)

Q: Democrats suffered what seemed like a pretty pronounced defeat by the parliamentarian. There’s been some talk about a ‘Plan C’ that would not grant permanent legal status, but instead offer a kind of ‘parole.’ Is that even in the ballpark?

A: “We’re calling on [Vice President Kamala Harris] to ignore the wrongful recommendation of the parliamentarian. There’s precedent for it. The Democrats can get it done. Our families need a pathway to citizenship. Not temporary protected status, or second-class citizenship status, where people who are here work and produce and pay taxes, but do not get full citizenship.”

Q: I was about to say that some immigrants’ rights group do view such a move as second-class citizenship, and that they’re not going to stand for it. 

A: MILPA is calling for [Harris to ignore it]. And it can be done and it should be done. It’s our recommendation that the parliamentarian’s recommendation is just a recommendation. And it can get done. There’s not reason for someone who is unelected to cut off millions of families from a change that should have happened decades ago at this point.”

(Editor’s Note: According to one fact-check on this claim, it is possible for the Senate to overrule McDonough, but such an action would require 60 votes, necessitating the support of the chamber’s Republicans. Some experts believe, however, that this can be done by a simple majority.)

U.S. Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania (Capital-Star file)

Q: You’ve planned this march to Sen. Casey’s office on Tuesday. Have you spoken directly with him, or with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.’s office about this?

A: “We have reached out to Sen. Casey, and we will reach out to Sen. Toomey. We have not heard back from Casey’s office on when he can meet.

Q: This is a deeply emotional issue, and it’s one that’s defied solution for years. What is the reaction from your community? I have to imagine that the level of frustration is very high. 

A: “Families are angry that their safety, that the future of of their families in our commonwealth are at stake. So many of of our families were the [business] owners [and workers] who sustained the commonwealth through the biggest health and economic crisis in a generation. So to be told that this person, who is unelected, is determining their future, to become citizens in the communities they worship in, they go to school in, they work and pay taxes in, we don’t accept that.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

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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.