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CNY Immigrants & Allies Join Call For Pathway To Citizenship, Relief For Essential Workers

Scott Willis

Syracuse-area immigrants and their allies are joining a nationwide effort calling on a federal pathway to citizenship and other relief for undocumented immigrants.  Just over a dozen advocates gathered in a steady rain Thursday afternoon to continue the Relay Across America that began a month ago in Washington DC.  Kayla Kelechian is with the CNY chapter of the New York Immigration Coalition.  She says now is the time to make progress on a number of fronts.

"We got the Biden administration in.  Now we need to be aggressive.  We don't want broken promises.  We hear there's a window, it's a small window, we'll go through it.  Citizenship for all, Dreamers, DACA, essential workers who've been feeding us throughout this pandemic."

The advocates have been stepping up pressure in recent weeks to ensure farmworkers, health care employees, hospitality staff, and other essential workers are part of the state and federal pandemic relief packages.  Most are black and brown, and some are undocumented.  Jessica Maxwell with the CNY Workers’ Center says government is hypocritical when it comes to including immigrants.

Credit Scott Willis / WAER News
Kayla Kelechian with the CNY Chapter of the New York Immigration Coalition explains why undocumented workers can't be left behind.

"We want to do it when it comes time to take advantage of immigrant labor.  We want to do it when we're talking about accessing immigrant money.  Oh, but when it comes time to talk about access to benefits, when it comes time to talk about economic recovery, then all of a sudden, we want to talk about illegals, and who's breaking the law, and who shouldn't be crossing the border, we want to leave immigrants behind."

The advocates say their efforts are paying off.  The state has set aside $2.1 billion to support undocumented immigrants who’ve been left out of relief packages.  They also delivered signatures to Congressmember John Katko from 100 organizations calling for him to support the Citizenship Act for Essential Workers. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at