EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – As the House of Representatives might be getting ready to vote on the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act, possibly as early as Friday, two Texas Democrats on Thursday highlighted how it would reward essential workers who lack lawful immigration status.
“Immigrants are essential, and America is their home. They deserve to be here. Congress must deliver this much-needed relief in the form of work permits and deportation protection,” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, said on the steps of the Capitol.
He was joined by advocates and some of the immigrants who stand to benefit from the bill.
The most recent version of the Build Back Better Act includes $100 million to speed up processing of immigration benefits and provisions to protect from deportation up to 7 million immigrants, according to some estimates.
The bill includes a five-year “parole” for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since 2011. It does not include a pathway to citizenship, though advocates are pressuring Democrats to be bold and reconsider.
U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said securing the current benefits in the act is a start.
“What we are left with very likely is work permits and protections. While that is absolutely inadequate, we have to get that across the finish line,” she said. “It buys Congress more time so we can fulfill our obligation and ensure we give them the path to citizenship they deserve.”
Both Castro and Escobar showered praise on undocumented immigrants in the food, hospitality and health industries who reported to their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic while most American professionals got to work from home.
“In San Antonio, immigrant essential workers have continued to keep our city safe, healthy and moving forward during this pandemic,” Castro said. “Immigrants are entrepreneurs, job creators, innovators, consumers and essential workers that power our country’s economy and create employment opportunities for all Americans. Some industries wouldn’t exist or prosper without them.”
Various activists, who also lack lawful immigration status, on Thursday explained how they live in constant anxiety of being deported.
“Last year I found myself with depression and anxiety due to the fear of deportation,” said Julio Calderon, a native of Honduras with a pending removal order dating back to 2006. “I’ve never had access to a driver’s license, never had access to an ID. I know that any interaction with (law enforcement) could put me back in Honduras, a country I have not even been to in the last 16 years.”
Calderon said he and his family now have deep ties in the United States and have made something of themselves.
“I now have an economics degree from Florida International University,” he said. “My parents have (Temporary Protected Status), my sister is a U.S. citizens and my brother is on (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). That’s four different status in a family of six. That’s why we say the immigration system is broken.”