After a procedural decision dealt a blow to Democrats’ immigration agenda, local immigrants and their supporters have stepped up demands to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions already living and working in the U.S.

Local immigrants marched through Philadelphia over the weekend, and dozens from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware attended Tuesday’s march in Washington, D.C. for “Citizenship, Care and Climate,” to keep the pressure on lawmakers.

Last week, the Senate’s parliamentarian ruled that sweeping immigration changes could not be included in the federal budget reconciliation process, a gambit Senate Democrats see as a maneuver to bypass a likely filibuster by Republicans on a standalone reform bill.

Despite what have become steep odds, Democratic leaders have been expressing optimism for other options and advocates are seizing the moment with urgency — fearing a window is closing for a shot to normalize the status of millions of immigrants living in legal precarity.

“People are more determined than ever to make sure this gets passed now,” said Desi Burnette, statewide coordinator of the Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania (MILPA).

“It’s something we’ve been dreaming for for 20 years,” said Iwan Soetiono, 47, an Indonesian man living in South Philadelphia. A longtime U.S. resident, he came to America in 2001 after fleeing anti-Christian, anti-ethnic Chinese violence in Jakarta.

Soetiono applied for asylum in the United States, but has been denied twice. His two children are U.S. citizens, and he worked through the pandemic at a factory in New Jersey, manufacturing kilns.

The Democrats’ proposal calls for providing a path to citizenship for essential and farm workers, the so-called Dreamers who grew up in the U.S. after emigrating as children, and some who have been allowed to stay in the U.S. following natural disasters or civil wars at home.

Soetiono would qualify, as would hundreds of thousands of people in the region, according to the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress. In Pennsylvania, an estimated 115,000 people could get green cards if the measure is enacted. In New Jersey, it’s 286,400. Delaware would see 16,800 people gain status.


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