Local immigration advocates calling on Congress to pass green card reform

DELMARVA – The House Judiciary Committee recently approved legislation that would provide green cards for about 8 million undocumented people.

Democrats want to use money from the $3.5 trillion spending bill to provide 8 million green cards. They would go to four types of immigrants: DACA recipients, temporary protected status holders, agricultural workers, and essential workers. Legal permanent resident status often is the first step toward citizenship.

A Better Life

For undocumented people, a green card can be a promise for a safer life with better opportunities. Diana Sanroman-Espinosa is a DACA recipient. She was brought from Mexico with her family when she was just two years old. Sanroman-Espinosa says when it came time to apply for colleges, some of her bigger challenges with her legal status began. “I was above average in my class. I was in the top ten. Yet, I was getting rejection letters due to my legal status, something I couldn’t control,” said Sanroman-Espinosa.

Sanroman-Espinosa finally got into the University of Delaware, where she faced even more challenges, until she was granted her green card. “My legal status labeled me as an international student, although I’ve been living in the United States my entire life. I’ve never left since I came here at the age of two,” said Sanroman-Espinosa. “Everything that took me months to do took me a day. It just seemed like all my problems left immediately.”

And for Maria Chavalan Sut, who fled from persecution and violence in Guatemala, a green card means living without fear, and a clearer path to reuniting with her family. “I have suffered under ICE. They put an ankle monitor on my foot, and the treatment that they gave me overturned me onto my childhood trauma,” said Chavalan Sut. “I do not have permission to work or to drive. I make food so I can send money to my children, who are still in Guatemala, and I do my sewing.”

Showing Support

Those stories are the reason advocates are calling on Congress to move forward on immigration reform. The process of getting a green card can be confusing and difficult at times. But advocates say finally getting one is just the first step toward protecting the persecuted. “I think compassion and empathy goes a long way when we deal with foreign-born people, when we deal with immigrants, when we deal with people who are going through these types of cases,” said Bryant Garcia with La Esperanza.

Advocates also say that it’s not just about helping those trying to get a green card. They tell 47ABC it’s also about building up the community here on Delmarva. “There is a link that I can see between having these documents and quality of life, and economic impact on not only a family unit, but a community,” said Matthew Peters with the Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center.

The Road Ahead

Sunday, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled against the Democrats’ green card plan. MacDonough said in her ruling that the immigration policy changes in the proposal is outside the bounds of reconciliation. “The reasons that people risk their lives to come to this country – to escape religious and political persecution, famine, war, unspeakable violence and lack of opportunity in their home countries – cannot be measured in federal dollars,” MacDonough wrote.

Democrats want to use budget reconciliation to pass the spending bill without Republican support. It’s a process that overrides filibuster rules, which require a 60 vote supermajority for a bill to pass in the Senate. Under reconciliation, bills can pass by a simple majority of 51 votes, or 50 votes plus the Vice President. But, there are strict rules for what can be included. For example, any measure within the bill has to impact the government’s spending or revenues. The impact cannot be “merely incidental” to nonbudgetary intentions.

But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost for the proposed legislation. Democrats could keep trying to convince MacDonough, or come back with an altered plan. The party hasn’t yet announced any alternative plans or changes to the proposed legislation.

Categories: Delaware, Local News, Maryland, National Politics, Virginia