Immigrant, business advocates frustrated by Biden’s humanitarian parole for new arrivals

WASHINGTON — Immigration advocates and business leaders on Friday urged President Joe Biden to use his executive authority to extend work visas to long-term undocumented people and immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens, following his State of the Union address Thursday night that centered on the economy and immigration reform.

In a Friday press call organized by the American Business Immigration Coalition, a group that advocates for immigration reform as an economic benefit, they expressed frustration that the Biden administration has granted new migrants humanitarian parole in order to quickly give them protections and the ability to work in the United States — but had not extended the same privileges to people who are undocumented who have been in the country for longer.

And noting that Congress has failed to act on immigration reform in nearly 40 years, and that a bipartisan deal on border security quickly fell apart last month, those advocates and business leaders see an executive order as the only path forward.

“We have no (other) choice than to knock on the door of the White House,” Al Cardenas, a business leader and co-chairman of the American Business Immigration Coalition, said Friday. “Everyone’s frustrated.”

Americans with undocumented spouses also expressed their frustration and pushed for executive action to grant relief for the more than 1.1 million Americans who fear their undocumented spouses could face deportation.

“‘I will not separate families.’ That’s what President Biden said last night,” Ashley DeAzevedo, the president of American Families United, said of Biden’s State of the Union speech. “Those may be just five words to some people, but to me … they are a promise, a commitment to our families and our futures.”

Immigration in spotlight

The immigration section of Biden’s State of the Union speech to Congress focused on how Republicans walked away from a bipartisan border deal and how Biden wants to work with Congress to overhaul U.S. immigration law.

As Biden spoke about immigration, he was often interrupted by Republicans, who that day had passed a House bill named for a murdered college student from Georgia, Laken Riley, whose death conservatives have tied to White House immigration policies.

Immigration, specifically the issue of how to stem the flow of migration at the southern border, has become a central campaign topic in the presidential rematch between Biden and GOP front-runner Donald J. Trump.

U.S. Democratic Rep. Delia Ramirez of Illinois said she was disappointed that Biden did not support expanding work visas for immigrants, noting that there are nearly 9 million job openings nationwide. 

While Biden said that some of his legislative accomplishments will create millions of new jobs, Ramirez argued that “we need workers for those jobs.”

“Immigrants help strengthen our economy,” she said. “Immigrants fill those jobs that we desperately need to fill. Immigrants are anxious to continue to contribute more revenue into our tax rolls.”


The frustration over work permits comes as the Biden administration deals with the largest number of migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border in 20 years and has used broad authority to grant those migrants work visas under humanitarian parole.

Sam Sanchez, a board member of the National Restaurant Association, said undocumented workers who have waited on their visas for decades feel like they are “being leapfrogged with new (migrant) arrivals.”

“We’re here to help everybody out,” Sanchez said. “But we cannot forget the long-term migrants that (have) been contributing to our economy.”

There are more than 10 million undocumented people in the U.S., many who have lived in the country for decades.

Rebecca Shi, the executive director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, said that the Biden administration’s frequent use of humanitarian parole is what inspired their push for the president to grant work visas for long-term undocumented people.

“We didn’t think (this) was possible, but you know, he’s granted 1.4 million work permits to the new migrants,” she said. “So, at least extend the same benefits for those who’ve been working and sweating and paying taxes here for decades.”

Undocumented spouses 

Shi added that many of those undocumented workers who live in mixed-status families, meaning that some are U.S. citizens and some undocumented, also live in swing states. Some of those swing states include Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“That’s a political reality,” she said.

DeAzevedo said that American Families United, which represents U.S. citizens and their undocumented spouses, is launching campaigns in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to demand the “simple right for our spouses to work legally in this country that is their home.”

“The state of our unions is tired, frustrated and left out,” DeAzevedo said.

One person who feels that way was introduced only as Allyson, a U.S. citizen who has been married to an undocumented immigrant, with whom she has three children, for more than 20 years. She did not disclose her full name.

“We are tired and, frankly, so angry at this administration,” Allyson said. “Year after year we continue to live in trauma and fear of separation, especially if an unfriendly administration takes over again.”

She said that she and her family feel disrespected.

“We see over 1 million recently arrived new migrants gain work permits and family reunification through parole, while we… waited 20 years, working, paying taxes,” she said.

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