In Brief

Kamala Harris greeted by pro-immigrant protests in Newark, Montclair

By: - October 8, 2021 5:45 pm

A protester urges Vice President Harris to force Democrats to include a path to citizenship in the party’s massive spending bill. (Courtesy of Make the Road NJ)

Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Garden State Friday, touring an Essex County COVID-19 vaccination site and chatting with preschoolers in Montclair while making a push for increased child care funding.

Harris was also greeted by dozens of activists who rallied outside both sites and urged the nation’s second in command to demand Democrats approve a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s undocumented immigrants.

Holding signs reading “We are Home” and “VP Harris Citizenship Now!” the residents described how the lack of citizenship has hurt their recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As an essential health care worker during the pandemic, I put my life at risk every day to help keep a health clinic open. But still, I fear being separated from my children,” Mariana Velasquez, a member of Make the Road NJ, said in a statement. “New Jersey is my home.”

Organized by Make the Road and other New Jersey-based immigrant advocacy groups, the protests were intended to pressure the Vice President to tell congressional leaders to provide funding for a pathway to citizenship in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package. The Senate parliamentarian has ruled the immigration proposal is a broad new policy change that cannot be passed by a maneuver known as budget reconciliation the party intends to use to pass the spending bill.

In Newark, as Harris and State Troopers drove by the group of immigrants, the protesters shouted “Kamala, use your power!” and “¿Que queremos? ¡Ciudania para todos!” (“What do we want? Citizenship for all!”). Harris waved at them through the tinted windows of her car.

A letter signed by 57 grassroots organizations, including Make the Road, was sent to Harris Monday urging her to overrule the parliamentarian’s ruling, which is non-binding.

“Vice President Harris has the power to help deliver on what previous administrations have promised but always failed to materialize, a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people. The question at hand is not whether the vice president has the ability to overrule the parliamentarian’s suggestion, she does,” said Itzel Hernandez, an organizer with American Friends Service Committee. “Instead, it’s about whether she has the will to fight so our communities get what they deserve and that is nothing less than citizenship.”

New Jersey is home to more than 460,000 undocumented immigrants, and it is among the states with the highest share of immigrants in its population. If the pathway-to-citizenship language is included in the law, the federal government would have the power to offer legal permanent status to 9 million immigrants, including DACA recipients, people under Temporary Protected Status, and undocumented residents.

In the evenly divided Senate, Harris would likely cast the tie-breaking vote on any bill that allows undocumented immigrants to become citizens.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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