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NYC Immigrants Hold Out Hope for Build Back Better’s Path to Citizenship

New Yorkers and advocates held a candlelight vigil in front of the Rockefeller Center Tree to demand Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) and VP Kamala Harris to include open citizenship eligibility in the Build Back Better bill and pressure Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support it.

Rommel H. Ojeda

Dec 22, 2021

Attendees took a minute of silence to remember immigrants who passed away in the United States as they waited for citizenship. Photo: Rommel Ojeda for Documented.

On Tuesday evening, more than 35 New Yorkers and immigration advocates held a vigil in front of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center to continue pressuring democratic leaders, particularly Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), to support the Build Back Better bill and deliver a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The vigil was organized by New Immigration Community Empowerment (NICE) as a response to the immigration setbacks that occurred in Washington last week. Elizabeth MacDonough, the senate parliamentarian, rejected the Democrat’s attempt to include an immigrant parole in the Build Back Better Act, and Manchin announced that he opposes the bill.

The $1.7 trillion bill in question passed the House of Representatives on November 18th, and was sent to the Senate with the goal to pass it through the process known as budget reconciliation, which would allow the legislation to pass with a simple majority instead of the 60 required votes. For months, Democrats have tried to include an immigration provision that would give protections to certain immigrants, but failed at all three attempts to get the approval of the Senate referee. 

While Democrats taunted the possibility of overruling the parliamentarian’s decision and including a path to citizenship in Build Back Better, Manchin announced that he would not support the bill on Sunday during an interview with Fox News.

“We need to keep pressuring Senator Schumer to call his colleague Manchin and tell him that this doesn’t work for us. We waited far too long and need citizenship this year,” said Sara Feldman, Workers Rights Director at NICE. 

During the vigil, members of NICE took turns speaking about their experiences and their need for citizenship to pass. An emotional Elia Gonzalez, who arrived from Mexico in 1999, held back tears as she told the attendees about her mother’s passing last month. 

“I have a son who was born here, and I have not seen any help toward me. If I had citizenship, or a permit to go back and see my mother, to tell her goodbye, I would have done it. But I couldn’t. So I am here with all of you demanding for an immigration reform,” Gonzalez said. 

Amid the buzzing noise of the crowded streets and the holiday light show at Saks Fifth Avenue, attendees also lit candle lights and held a minute of silence in remembrance of the people lost during the pandemic, the people who passed away during their journey to the United States, and those who passed away while waiting for an immigration reform to pass.

“Next year we have the midterm elections, and the media will be focusing on it. So this is the window that we have to pass social legislation, and we need to take advantage of it,” added Feldman. 

Also Read: How Attorneys Wrangle New York’s Wildly Unpredictable Immigration Court Schedule

Rommel H. Ojeda

Rommel is a bilingual journalist and filmmaker based in NYC. He is the community correspondent for Documented. His work focuses on immigration, and issues affecting the Latinx communities in New York.




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