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It’s Been 35 Years Since Congress Enacted Legislation to Legalize Undocumented Immigrants

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Democrats have to keep their promises

Washington, DC – Immigration reform is back in the news. The demand for legislative action this year continues to grow. It’s up to Democrats to use their majority to deliver for people who are Americans in all but paperwork.

The Washington Post has an excellent profile of Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) and his commitment to reform. Other stories (here and here) explore legislative paths to victory. 

As procedures and paths get debated, the fundamentals on the need for immigration reform legislation remain strong:

  • Undocumented immigrants have earned a place at the table and formal recognition as the Americans they already are: Immigrants have always been essential, but their everyday sacrifices and work on all of our behalf has been particularly visible during COVID. See these recent pieces for fresh reminders on how immigrants are essential to a vibrant economy and a growing workforce in states across the country. 
  • The public has long ago reached a consensus; they want to legalize undocumented immigrants: Our laws and legislation remain well behind where the American people are. In fact, the public is unified and supportive of citizenship for undocumented immigrants, with polls consistently finding that two-thirds of Americans support citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers, and essential workers, including a majority of Republicans (see here for a polling roundup).
  • Democrats made promises and need to deliver: Every election season, Democrats make  promises to protect immigrants and create a roadmap to citizenship. In 2020 voters elected Democrats to control the White House and the Congress. It’s time for elected Democrats to deliver. In polling released last week from Global Strategy Group for the Immigration Hub, the majority of all voters – and 90% of Democratic voters – would be upset if Democrats don’t use their majority to enact reform this year. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Undocumented immigrants strengthen our communities, have risked their lives to keep us safe and fed during the pandemic, and are our friends, family and neighbors. But our outdated and dysfunctional immigration system hasn’t been updated in 35 years. 

Democrats have made promises election cycle after election cycle, but in crunch moments have expended little political capital to make progress. This is the year they need to deliver. They have 51 Senate votes and 220 House votes, everything they need to produce a long overdue breakthrough.

America is counting on Democrats to deliver on legislation that transforms the lives of millions of immigrant families across America.