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Lorella Praeli and Hina Naveed Give Voice to the Dreams of Millions in the New York Times

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This is the year for Democrats to deliver on their promises and legalize millions

Washington, DC — Lorella Praeli and Hina Naveed, both of whom have lived most of their lives as undocumented immigrants, have written a powerful piece for the New York Times. They talk of their lives and the aspirations of millions of undocumented immigrants who want Congress to enact pathways to citizenship. Backed by broad support from voters from across the political spectrum, Democrats are gearing up to use their majority to translate their promise to legalize immigrants into a long overdue breakthrough. 

The New York Times op-ed is excerpted below and available in full here:

We were each 10 when our families — Lorella’s from Peru, Hina’s from Pakistan — moved with us to the United States. 

Our families’ difficult decisions to leave our home countries set into motion the trajectory of our new lives in the United States. We made friends, graduated from college, fell in love and began our careers. We were also undocumented.

We are both in our early 30s now. And for more than a decade, we have fought to be recognized as Americans in the country that is our home. But it has been more than 30 years since Congress last passed a major citizenship bill.

We have watched every major immigration bill, including the Dream Act, fail to gain enough votes to pass both the House and the Senate — in 2007, 2010 and 2013. The shallow workarounds have sent us spinning.

…The back and forth in the courts has kept a generation of young undocumented immigrants — and their families — in limbo. They live with the fear that their DACA status could be revoked at any time. The most recent setback means that tens of thousands of undocumented cannot gain a work permit, cannot afford to go to college or buy a home and build their lives here.

…Democrats have an opportunity now to end the precarity that so many immigrants experience daily by passing a budget-reconciliation package that includes citizenship for undocumented residents who have qualified for the DACA program, temporary protected status recipients, undocumented farmworkers and other essential workers.

Democrats must act now to avoid a repeat of our crushing loss in December 2010. That December, Lorella headed to Washington after her final college exams to join the push for the Dream Act. Hina watched the vote to break a filibuster from New York, where she was studying to apply to nursing programs, inspired by the warmth and compassion shown by medical workers to her sister.

On the day of the vote, undocumented youth filled the Senate gallery. Lorella held hands tightly with others while each senator offered a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the bill. It was gut-wrenching. And in the end, the Dream Act was a thumbs-down — even though Democrats controlled the House, the Senate and the White House, as they do now — with all but three Republicans joining five Democrats in voting no. Devastated, the undocumented youth moved out of the gallery into the corridor. The brokenhearted held hands, prayed, cried and then found the courage to chant: “Undocumented, unafraid! Undocumented, unafraid!”

…Democrats have the chance to deliver on a long-held commitment to millions of undocumented people and begin to transform an outdated and cruel immigration system into one that is humane and functional, and one that finally creates a real, navigable path to citizenship.

…This is our year. And we cannot wait to join hands in the Senate gallery with families like ours to watch the final vote on the reconciliation package, and this time, cry tears of relief and joy.

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

The momentum is building. The stakes are high. The path to victory is clear. 

Democrats have the opportunity to use their slim majority to change lives, grow the economy and fulfill their promises. While Republicans pander to their Trumpian base with ugly xenophobic attacks and COVID scapegoating, Democrats are poised to deliver the first meaningful citizenship legislation in decades.

The American people strongly support pathways to citizenship. This is the year.