Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone is urging Congress to pass a new wave of immigration reform to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Bellone was joined by local business owners, immigration advocates and labor organizations to ask President Joe Biden and federal lawmakers to advance comprehensive reforms for legal immigration while also strengthening the border.
Bellone blasted long delays in updating the nation's immigration systems. He called it a failure for hard-working immigrants.
Maria Rivera, the owner of Fifth Avenue Hairstyling in Bay Shore, immigrated from El Salvador to the U.S. 16 years ago.
“I want to represent all hard working immigrants from all over the world,” she said. “Legal or illegal: we are all human and deserve to be a part of this amazing country because at the end of the day we all pay our taxes and do goods for all our community.”
Many immigrants, like Rivera, said they come to the U.S. for better opportunities. Bellone said it is actually Long Island businesses that rely on them. He said they can help the economy recover from the pandemic.
Bellone said nearly 20% of Long Islanders were born outside the U.S.
“We are not only a nation of immigrants; we are an island of immigrants,” he said.
Biden’s proposed legislation for immigration reform would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for temporary legal status, apply for green cards after five years and apply for citizenship three years after they are legalized. Legislation was introduced in the House and Senate in February and is in committee in their respective chambers.
The House has already passed two immigration reform bills since session began.
Biden also rescinded one of former President Donald Trump’s several executive orders that encouraged the removal of undocumented immigrants and withheld certain funds to sanctuary cities who gave them amnesty. He also rescinded the freeze on visas put in place by Trump at the start of the pandemic to protect the U.S.’s job market.
The Biden administration, spearheaded by Vice President Kamala Harris, is currently dealing with an influx of unaccompanied minors at the southern border that are overstressing the detention shelters, which may be in part because of Biden’s suspended the Migrant Protection Protocols, a 2019 Homeland Security action that kept immigrants seeking admission, to the U.S. from Mexico, to remain in Mexico throughout the immigration proceedings.
“What we have now is unworkable. It is a failed system that is nothing short of a massive failure by our national government,” said Bellone. “Instead of a process that gives people the recognition they deserve to serve as productive citizens. We have a process that keeps people hidden in the shadows.”
Harris is soon scheduled to travel to Guatemala and Mexico to work with their presidents to examine the root causes of increased immigration at the southern border.