NEW YORK, NY — On Tuesday, U.S. House Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), FWD.us, New York community leaders, and directly impacted individuals joined a roundtable event to celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month (IHM), recognize the cultural and economic impact of immigrants to New York and our nation, and discuss the need for immigration reform.
During yesterday’s conversation, participants urged Congress to provide an earned pathway to citizenship for our nation’s undocumented immigrants and their families. Home to 4.3 million immigrants in total, New York’s undocumented immigrants are a driving force in our COVID-19 response efforts. There are approximately 330,000 undocumented New York essential workers — including 9,200 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and 12,500 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder essential workers — supporting industries such agriculture, health care, education, construction, and sanitation.
The U.S. House of Representatives championed this mission earlier this year by passing the American Dream and Promise Act and Farm Workforce Modernization Act to provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and undocumented farmworkers workers, among others. These two pieces of legislation are vital to our undocumented population who face sudden deportation and separation from their families.
FWD.us’ New York State Immigration Director Eddie A. Taveras began the event by bringing attention to Immigrant Heritage Month and emphasized the importance of immigration reform that would allow both our current undocumented population and future generations of immigrants to fully succeed and contribute to our nation. Congressman Espaillat went on to comment that he was extremely proud of he and his colleagues’ work to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, but noted that there was still plenty left to accomplish. Attendees also heard from New York Educator and DACA recipient Astou Thiane who highlighted the impact that DACA protections have made in her educational pursuits. Additionally, Angel Salazar, a worker center associate at La Colmena, and TPS holder Lawrence Bureh detailed their experiences as immigrant essential workers.
A full recording of the conversation can be found here. Participant quotes from the roundtable are below:
“It was truly an honor to join FWD.us for this important forum during Immigrant Heritage Month. As the only formerly undocumented immigrant in Congress, I have witnessed firsthand the hurdles our immigrant brothers and sisters have to surpass to make it to this country, and to one day embody the American Dream. I hold it as a personal responsibility to ensure that immigrants have the same opportunity to achieve that founding ideal like I did, and that’s keeping our immigrant communities front and center here in New York and in Washington. I helped the House pass immigration reform like the Dream and Promise Act earlier this year, but this is a continued battle that we should never take for granted. I believe that we can finally get legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for our nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants signed into law, and I vow to keep fighting. And if we have to do it through budget reconciliation? So be it. It’s long past time our immigrants get their promised pathway to citizenship and we should do what it takes to make this dream a reality once and for all.” — Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13)
“In the spirit of Immigrant and Caribbean Heritage Month, I want to acknowledge my grandmother and mother, who came to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, and one of the countless people that helped make us the 5th-largest Hispanic population in the U.S. Their hard work and resilience have made it possible for so many like me to be here today. But our immigration system has held back millions of immigrant individuals and families for far too long, harming our communities and economy in the process. It’s as important and urgent as ever to establish a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million hard-working undocumented immigrants in this country, which the majority of Americans support.” — Eddie A. Taveras, New York State Immigration Director, FWD.us
“I learned the full implications of my immigration status as a high school senior navigating the college process. It was hard for me to navigate difficulties getting a job or accessing a college education when I had lived here in New York most of my life. Receiving DACA protection was monumental. It allowed me to work my way through school and now advocate for marginalized communities on a national stage. However, the constant attacks on DACA are tortuous reminders that we are not safe despite the numerous and significant contributions we make. Furthermore, there is a new generation of undocumented youth attending K-12 schools who are ineligible for DACA, and are therefore among the most vulnerable in our community. Congress must end this uncertainty and provide us with a long-deserved pathway to citizenship.” — Astou Thiane, New York Educator & DACA recipient
“The pandemic devastated my family’s crops back home in Sierra Leone. Luckily, I was here in the U.S. and able to legally work as a Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holder and provide for my family from hundreds of miles away. I came to the U.S. to work hard and earn a better life for my family, as did many other TPS holders like me. I am grateful for the work that I have been able to do here in the U.S. and ask that Congress pass legislation that will allow me to continue giving to back the country that I call home and that has allowed me to provide for my family during this tough time.” — Lawrence Bureh, TPS Recipient from Gangama, Sierra Leone
“Through DACA, I was able to come out of the shadows, go to school, and work. Today, I help organize hundreds of undocumented youth who are the face of future innovation and activism, yet have been neglected by the country they grew up in. Our goal is to empower our undocumented youth and provide them with the tools they need to reach their dreams. Providing an earned pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people like me will ensure productive members of our community can contribute to our workforce and will end the constant fear of deportation that we all feel with the program remaining temporary.” — Israel Sanchez, Community Organizer, New York State Youth Leadership Council & DACA recipient
“My time as an essential worker has made me even more aware of the impact that our state’s immigrant workforce makes in the lives of all New Yorkers. I have witnessed and worked alongside many immigrants who put their lives and their families’ lives on the line to ensure that America has food on their table and housing to live in. Now is not the time to stall efforts that could allow undocumented essential workers to more fully contribute to our communities and economy. We deserve and have earned the opportunity to obtain citizenship. I thank Congressman Espaillat for his willingness to listen to all of us at today’s roundtable and urge his colleagues in Congress to do the same.” — Angel Salazar, Worker Center Associate & Essential Worker, La Colmena
“Today’s discussion is a reminder to us all that even with the victories in the House, we must make an effort every day to fight for our undocumented immigrants and secure legislation that protects them permanently. Without necessary protection, they are limited in their ability to participate in our workforce and economy fully, and we fail to acknowledge the immense contributions they are already making. Legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship will allow our undocumented population to pursue opportunities that grow their skillset, career, and our state. Doing so will leave our communities safer and stronger in the long run. We cannot delay this further.” — Maria Lizardo, Executive Director, Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation