The arrival of the Biden administration and the potential for the COVID-19 pandemic to soon be under control have combined to give immigration reform advocates in Massachusetts hope that a long-term solution is within reach.
U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat and senior leader in the House, convened a group on Monday to discuss the status of immigration in the United States and the efforts underway to build momentum for Congress to tackle reform.
The House has passed legislation this year to give the so-called "Dreamers" — young immigrants in the country illegally who were brought here as children — and immigrant farmworkers a path to apply for permanent residence. In addition to convincing the Senate to take up those bills, Clark said Congress must take additional steps to create pathways to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, including high-skilled groups, and protect against exploitation in the workforce.
"As immigrants and refugees continue to seek a better life in the United States we need to create long-term solutions that respect the dignity and rights of immigrants and keep the American dream alive," Clark said.
Eva Millona, president of the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said the pandemic has given advocates an opportunity to "change the narrative" and try to convince lawmakers still on the fence about reform.
MIRA reports that 20% of the workforce in Massachusetts is made up of immigrants, including 71,900 undocumented essential workers delivering care and services during the pandemic.
Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, also said it's important that the Biden administration is considering the root causes of migration to the United States from countries such as El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where poverty, violence and corruption are leading people to seek asylum here.
"We believe that it is urgent to understand the situation in the region and reestablish the rule of law in countries like Honduras," Montes said. Any money sent to these counties must be used to help the people, not to further the militarization of the government, she said.
"It's not just about extreme poverty and extreme violence. It's also the endemic level of corruption and the impunity that these places are facing right now," she said.
Original story here.