San Jose legislator pushes for immigration reforms amid COVID-19

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Zoe Lofgren called for immigration reform this week during a congressional hearing examining the role of undocumented immigrants in the essential workforce.

The San Jose Democrat said essential workers, such as those working in agriculture or food processing, have risked their lives by continuing to work in-person throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many immigrant essential workers are undocumented and live under the constant threat of removal,” she said. “Many others are protected by temporary programs, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or the Temporary Protected Status, but they too live in fear as a result of the (Trump) administration’s efforts to terminate these programs. They deserve better.”

Lofgren, who was speaking at the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship’s Sept. 23 hearing, said it was time to acknowledge the fundamental role immigrants play in society. The congresswoman, who serves as the subcommittee’s chair, said House lawmakers have passed multiple bills that would protect these workers.

The American Dream and Promise Act would provide permanent lawful residence to DACA recipients, she explained, while the Heroes Act would protect essential workers from removal during the pandemic.

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, said he respected the contributions of immigrants who were legally living and working in the United States. But he objected to the notion that undocumented immigrants deserved protections.

The pandemic has caused a rise in unemployment, he said, and out-of-work Americans should be given the jobs currently held by undocumented workers.

“It is important that we recognize that those who are here illegally should leave,” Buck said. “We should take even more swift action to ensure that they leave and we should make sure that our southern border is secure so we don’t allow more illegal immigrants to come into this country.”

The subcommittee heard from four witnesses, including Vicente Reyes, a student and DACA recipient residing in Bakersfield (Kern County).

By Katie King for SAN JOSE spotlight
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