For more than 20 years, my husband and I have been part of the essential workforce in the United States. I’ve worked as a domestic cleaner and my husband has labored as a construction worker. Together, we have worked to provide for our family and contribute to our community. But we also happen to be undocumented, which means in many respects, we live in the shadows. For decades, we have looked forward to the day when Congress passes an immigration reform bill and puts us on a path to citizenship.
As budget reconciliation negotiations continue, that moment is closer than ever.
We have heard strong commitments from Senate Majority Leader Schumer, Democrats in Congress and President Biden. Now it’s time for them to deliver. Congress must continue to push forward to finally recognize undocumented immigrants as part of this country and deliver long-awaited relief for millions of undocumented people.
No one said this would be easy. In recent weeks, the Senate parliamentarian has issued two negative assessments of the proposal to include a pathway to citizenship in budget reconciliation. This was difficult news to receive, especially because we know that there is precedent for including such measures in this process.
But we also know that this is not the end of the road. The parliamentarian’s opinion is not binding, and Congress must still act. That’s why last week, I traveled to Washington alongside thousands from across the country to demand clear action. And it’s why, last week, I joined a sleep-out outside Schumer’s home in Brooklyn.
I realize that, to some, this may seem like an extreme step to take, but people like me — who have seen the opportunity for progress pass us by too many times — are desperate for positive change.
When I arrived in this country, I began to clean houses and apartments, working long hours with my feet swollen at the end of the day. But it was all worth it to be able to provide for my two young daughters and my family back home.
My husband and I worked hard to be able to provide a better life for my daughters, and to become part of our community. We took English classes to be able to communicate with their teachers and help our daughters with their homework. As they got older, together we faced many challenges due to our immigration status and often lived in fear of deportation.
In 2012, my daughters qualified for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program; I breathed a sigh of relief that my daughters were able to apply and obtain temporary protection. DACA allowed them to work and protected them from deportation. But today, the program is still in danger and the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, including my daughters, remain in limbo.
My husband and I continue waiting for a pathway to citizenship. We both work in our communities and contribute to the economy. Even during a global pandemic, my husband risked his life working. The pandemic affected my work as a domestic cleaner; contracting COVID-19 stopped me from being able to work.
It hurt my family to have been excluded from state and federal aid; we fell behind on our bills and rent. I learned about a hunger strike to create a fund for excluded workers, and I joined for three days because I knew that thousands of excluded workers were in the same situation and we urgently needed relief. That advocacy helped lead to the victory of the Excluded Workers Fund in New York, for which I recently applied and was approved.
Just like we fought for that fund in Albany, we are fighting now to have our voices heard in Washington and ensure Congress includes a path to citizenship in the federal budget reconciliation package.
We are ramping up the pressure because we need bold leadership to ensure that the budget reconciliation package includes permanent protections for undocumented immigrants. Families like mine have waited for decades for relief that will allow us to safely work in this country, without the looming thought that we could be separated from our loved ones. We cannot wait any longer. Schumer must use his power and guide his conference to move forward as planned to ensure a path to citizenship.
We need a pathway to citizenship for the millions of essential workers, immigrant youth, Temporary Protected Status holders, and more. The fate of my family and of millions of people across the country depends on it.