Nearly 3,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday urging the Biden administration to grant work permits to long-term immigrants, many of whom have raised families and contributed to the U.S. economy and society for years or decades.
The march for the "National Here to Work Summit and Day of Action," organized by the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC - Action), brought together people from states across the country, including Colorado, Illinois, California, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina, among others. Before the march, groups met with representatives of Congress to discuss their stance on work permits.
"The community is ready to continue this fight, and we must continue pressing," said Yahel Flores, the Carolinas director of ABIC, to Enlace Latino NC. Yahel Flores emphasized that 2024 is an election year and highlighted the importance of "our community being heard."
The ABIC's Carolinas director, while declining to provide details, stated that meetings regarding the issue are ongoing with the White House. The latest meeting took place on Monday evening.
Advocacy with members of Congress
Representing North Carolina, delegations from El Colectivo NC, a coalition of grassroots groups and state organizations, including the nonprofit organization El Centro Hispano, el Comité Popular por la Justicia Social de Asheville, Henderson Fuerza Activa, Interfaith of Morganton, and Women Leading, actively participated in the two-day events. Additionally, members of El Pueblo from Raleigh and Carolina Migrant from Charlotte attended the demonstrations.
The "Here to Work" summit began on Monday afternoon, serving as a prelude to the march and legislative visits.
"We visited 10 legislative offices and had the opportunity to speak with four legislators who expressed their support for relief for workers and their families," said Víctor Álvarez of the Popular Committee for Social Justice of Asheville and vice president of El Colectivo NC, to Enlace Latino NC. "We know it won't be easy, but we will continue to fight for our communities," he added.
Divided into groups, participants visited most of the offices of federal representatives and senators, urging them to sign Congresswoman Verónica Escobar's letter. The document calls on President Joe Biden to consider granting parole case-by-case for work authorization to migrants.
"We are advocating for work permits for all families as a solution to the immigration problem," said Mario Alfaro Rodríguez, legislative liaison for El Centro Hispano, to Enlace Latino NC.
“Come out of the shadows”
Since February 2023, the "Here to Work" coalition has brought together over 350 businesses, Republican and Democratic governors, and members of Congress to urge the Biden administration to expand work permits for long-term immigrant contributors already in the United States.
"This is something we need. One could work in any plant, and it would allow us to have a driver's license," said Rolando Bolaños, who has been in the country for 31 years as an undocumented immigrant.
"I hope they will give us that work permit to come out of the shadows. I think this is the last shot we're going to give to the dance. We need the community to come out and support," he said.
Undocumented population stands at 11 million
About 11 million people were living in the United States without legal permission in 2021, having entered the country without authorization or staying after the expiration of their visas, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan group of experts.
The majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States are adults, with 63% having lived in the country for a decade or more, 43% for 15 years or more, and approximately 22% for 20 years or more.
In North Carolina, there are over a million Latinos, of whom it is estimated that at least 440,000, or roughly 40%, are undocumented.