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By Abraham Joven

On Sept. 17, the Diocese joined with local organizations at a press conference in downtown San Bernardino to urge legislators to retain immigration reforms within the budget reconciliation process.

The organizations included immigrant rights groups such as the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Rights, and the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective; faith-based groups such as the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity; environmental justice groups such as the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice; and labor unions such as the Service Employees International Union Local 2015.

At heart was the hope to provide a pathway for a large number of the 11 million people in the U.S. who are currently undocumented. Undocumented people often live in perilous situations, under threat of deportation and facing problems like employee exploitation, being restricted from housing options or being forced into neighborhoods with poor environmental circumstances, leading to poor health outcomes. A pathway to regularizing one’s status would help ensure that individuals and families have better options to life and work in a way that honors their dignity.

The policy prescriptive championed at the rally included protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, allowing for the regularizing of status for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and essential workers (e.g. health care, agriculture and meat processing workers), and adjusting the registry date – an administrative change that would mean more people are eligible to regularize their status. These policies would affect approximately eight million undocumented people.

The majority of the testimonies at the press conference spoke to this. Gabriella Mendez, an organizer with Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice and a DACA recipient, noted that their status prevented them from actions we take for granted, such as purchasing a car. She went on to say, “I am the dream that my parents held so dearly when they arrived in the United States,” Mendez said. “The government needs to say “yes” to immigrants!”

Rabbi Hillel Cohn, an immigrant and infant refugee of Nazism, called on the moral imperatives knitted into providing just relief to our immigrant community. “Too often, we allow politics to guide us, rather than principles,” he said. Cohn went on to urge that legislators commit to these policies as a way of living up this nation’s ideals.

Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino) said in part, “it’s time for Congress to take action for our immigrant community. That’s why I support a pathway to citizenship for our undocumented people via the reconciliation process.”

The weekend following the press conference, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled on the policy notes raised at the rally and found that they did not fall within the scope to be included in this budget bill.

Some lawmakers insisted that they would continue to push for immigrant rights. Local congressman Mark Takano (D-Riverside) said in a statement: “I am deeply disappointed by the Senate Parliamentarian’s decision not to include a pathway to citizenship in the budget reconciliation. The fight does not end.”

The bill to pass the budget is still pending passage from the Senate.

Abraham Joven is the Director of the Diocesan Office of Advocacy.