By Matthew Fischetti
Members of the nonprofit New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) members last week shared how their immigration status prevents them from being able to get steady work.
Around two dozen members waited an hour outside NICE headquarters in Jackson Heights wearing masks that said “Citizenship for All” as Senator Chuck Schumer listened to testimonials about how undocumented status affects immigrants’ lives.
Araceli Cerrano is an undocumented immigrant who spoke at the meeting about how her immigration status is literally threatening her life. Cerrano has kidney issues and is on dialysis three days a week.
“Without being able to be admitted to a transplant list, her time is literally running out,” said Diana Moreno, interim executive director of NICE. “This is a truly life-or-death situation for so many of our members, not just because they might be dealing with a health issue, but in the labor we do, during the pandemic, we have sometimes risked our very lives.”
Cerrano said it felt good to have Schumer listen to her issues.
“I really hope they are helping us because we all really need it,” she said. “Especially in my case. I need to get on the list for a transplant, so I really need papers.”
Democrats in Washington have failed multiple times to pass immigration reform since President Joe Biden took office. Schumer said talks are resuming with one Democratic holdout, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and is “confident they will be able to set aside the parliamentarian”.
The parliamentarian is a nonpartisan position that makes decisions about procedures in both the House and Senate. The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has previously ruled that immigration reform could not be tacked onto Biden’s spending bill, a crucial decision as spending bills only need 50 votes to pass and cannot be filibustered.
“As you know, Joe Manchin couldn’t come to an agreement with the president on this,” said Schumer. “And we need all 50 Democrats because we have no Republicans. But talks are resuming and we’re going to try to get as much of the BBB bill done as we can. Once we have a BBB bill on the floor, then we can move for a path to citizenship for immigrants to be added to it.”
Schumer emphasized how grassroots organizations like NICE need to get every Democratic senator to support the measures.
“I wish I could get all of my senators to hear you, but I will be your voice,” Schumer said. “You’re hard-working and want the best for yourselves and your families. We have to do everything we can to make that happen.”