Suburban immigration advocates push to include immigration reform in Build Back Better

  • Members of Mano a Mano and other Illinois organizations march in Washington D.C.

    Members of Mano a Mano and other Illinois organizations march in Washington D.C. courtesy of Mano A Mano

Updated 12/17/2021 7:22 PM

Members of the Round Lake-based immigration advocacy group Mano a Mano marched with hundreds of other advocates in Washington D.C. last weekend, urging that a pathway to citizenship be included in the massive Build Back Better legislation.

On Thursday, however, President Joe Biden conceded that the legislation, which he calls the nation's biggest investment in social programs since the New Deal, wasn't going to get done in 2022. Trimmed from its original $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, it still faces an uphill road with conservative Democrats in the Senate.


Last weekend, Mano a Mano leaders had cause for optimism. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights held a two-day event that included marching, news conferences and meetings with Illinois congressmen and women and U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth.

Durbin, who has long advocated for immigration reform, told the demonstrators -- and has said publicly -- that he would support overruling Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough if she concludes that Democrats cannot include providing work permits and deportation protection to immigrants in the Build Back better legislation.

"We're so grateful to have met with him (Durbin)," Celeste Flores, Mano a Mano's director of community building, said this week. "We've all been fighting really hard to have a pathway to citizenship and we're hopeful that it can happen."

Flores said there are about 39,000 undocumented residents in Lake County alone. The process to citizenship is long and difficult, she said, adding she knows people who have been here since the 1990s and are still undocumented.

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Flores not only finds the issue important to the growth of the country, but also deeply personal.

"I have family that is undocumented," Flores said. "We want to make sure they are able to get a pathway to citizenship and the time is now. We need the Senate to live up to its promises."

Some people representing Mano a Mano were among the 38 people who were arrested by Capitol Police during the protests. They were cited with blocking traffic.

Build Back Better Act is proposed legislation aimed at increasing social programs that strengthen American families, including new investment in universal prekindergarten, aid to low-income families through the existing child tax credits, expansion of Medicare coverage, reduced prescription drug prices for consumers, and efforts to combat climate change financed by taxing the richest Americans.

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