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Immigration Advocates in NY Seek New Avenue to Citizenship for Dreamers, Others on 20th Anniversary of DREAM Act

Immigrants march NYIC.jpg
New York Immigration Coalition calling for path to citizenship for undocumented essential workers, others trough congressional budget process. NYIC participated in this immigrant rights march in July.

Advocates for immigrants in New York are recognizing the 20th anniversary of the proposal that was supposed to help children from other countries have a pathway to citizenship. A coalition of groups wants to see congress take one step in immigration reform.

You’ve probably heard the story of dreamers – people from other countries brought to the Unite States as children. Some have lived here years or decades with uncertain immigration status.

The Dream - Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors - act was proposed 20 years ago … and never passed. It's been reintroduced - yet again - in this year's congress. And now the New York Immigration Coalition wants to see this situation solved in the federal budget process for many who have helped keep the state going.

“We know in New York City, more than half, literally over 50%, of all essential workers are immigrants, and in New York State it’s over 1/3,” says Coalition Vice President of Policy Anu Joshi.

Joshi adds these health and hospital, farm, sanitation and emergency workers stayed on the job during the pandemic, despite not having any citizenship status or assurances.

“We owe a deep sense of gratitude to these members of our community. We owe them the opportunity to live full, whole lives with their families and to be full citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities that entails.”

The coalition is seeking a measure in the budget reconciliation process that would provide legal green cards and a path to citizenship for dreamers, Dream Act-eligible youth, those with Temporary Protected Status, and undocumented essential workers.

Joshi says for advocates, the 20th anniversary of the Dream Act proposal is not exactly time for celebration.

“It’s like (a feeling) of optimism, where it feels like something could possibly happen, but also frustration, right, that we’ve known what the solution is for 20 years and haven’t been able to get it past the finish line. This isn’t an anniversary anyone would have wanted, the 20th anniversary of something being introduced and not passed, when we all know that this is a permanent solution that we need.”

President Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – which allowed so-called dreamers to get work permits and avoid deportation. If passed, the current proposal would solve their limbo and help others. Joshi notes this change does not lead to broader reform.

“This isn’t even going to provide a solution to all of our undocumented community members. This won’t do anything to address our outdated, inappropriate family-based immigration system and employment-based immigration system. People can be waiting years if not decades to reunite with loved ones, or to get an employment-based green card.”

Joshi says the limited reform – if added to the budget reconciliation - could be approved by the end of the year.