Immigrant Groups Frustrated By Inaction In D.C. Block Traffic In Front Of Sen. Casey’s Office

Immigrant rights activists blocked traffic outside of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s Center City Philadelphia office for about half an hour on Thursday, frustrated that Democrats haven’t delivered on pathway to citizenship legislation despite controlling Congress and the White House.

The action was one of 11 simultaneous protests happening across the country, criticizing Democrats for dropping the idea that it could be achieved through budget reconciliation legislation.

“We are here today because there are 11 million undocumented folks who have been promised a pathway to citizenship, and time and time again, have been let down,” said Maegan Llerena, executive director with Make the Road Pennsylvania. “[It’s] a slap in the face.”

Instead of issuing green cards and eventually citizenship, Democrats are proposing giving longtime undocumented residents temporary protection from deportation and work permits, using a process called “parole.”

As many as 7.1 million people would benefit under those terms, including 99,400 people in Pennsylvania, according to an estimate by the left-leaning think tank the Center for American Progress. To access the benefit, immigrants must have been present in the U.S. since 2011 under the current draft.

Those who support updating the immigration laws are split on this proposal. FWD.us, a pro-immigration lobbying group, released a statement on Thursday praising the proposal.

“In addition to providing long term protection from deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, the plan would allow people … access to long-term work permits to support their families and more fully participate in their communities, life-saving health care and the ability to travel abroad to reunite with family they have been separated from, often for decades,” wrote the group.

But on Market Street, activists said this language does not go far enough, and instead would keep millions of people in a second-class status. Members of New Sanctuary Movement, The Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania (MILPA), Woori Center, State Innovation Exchange and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC) joined Make the Road PA in calling for a pathway to citizenship.

ByLaura Benshoff for WHYY.ORG
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