The coalition pointed out that a Democratic government in the White House does not necessarily mean less pressure against undocumented people.

Fernando Martínez for El Diario

On Monday, more than 12 organizations gathered in Lower Manhattan to demand that immigration relief be expedited.

This article originally appeared in El Diario.

Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodriguez.

Salvadoran immigrant Joaquín Guimardo, 50, who lives in New York City, was able to breathe a sigh of relief when it was announced that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was projected to win the election. He is one of the 400,000 beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program whose existence was threatened for the last four years and which was doomed to disappear during a second President Trump term.

“At least now there is hope,” said Guimardo. “The other possibility was to be sent packing. Obviously, one has to assume that politicians make promises they do not keep, but the threat does not feel so present now. Still, we should not rest on our laurels.”

The TPS beneficiary was afraid to be suddenly left undocumented despite owning a gardening business – which creates jobs – on Long Island for 19 years and having two daughters, both U.S. citizens who dream of going to college.

The “joy mixed with caution,” as the Central American native describes it, is probably similar to that felt by the 700,000 students under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and millions of families who did not see a path to regularizing their immigration status in a future under Trump.

“Throughout history, we have often seen presidents who promise a lot of things solely in the interest of gathering votes. That is why we must make demands now, as young voters from families where our parents are still undocumented and who have Dreamer cousins,” said Mexican-born student Soraya Clemente, 21, who lives in Brooklyn.

On Monday, dozens of New York-based coalitions and community leaders petitioned the new tenant in the White House to spend his first 100 days prioritizing an immigration reform plan, and to strike down Trump’s executive orders threatening TPS and DACA beneficiaries, among other groups.

“We are directly asking Mr. Biden to immediately provide testing and services in the midst of this pandemic, to extend expired legal protections such as TPS and DACA, and to guarantee a clear path toward permanent residence and citizenship,” said Murad Awawdeh, interim co-executive director of the New York Immigration (NYCI).

From a meeting held in Lower Manhattan, the NYCI petition was also supported by 12 other organizations that promoted the youth vote in the 2020 election and are advocates for the working class.

“We face many challenges. We have gotten racism out of the White House. It is very important for a path toward the long-promised immigration reform to exist in order to give options to millions of families who make an honest contribution to our economy, such as day laborers,” said Yesenia Mata, director of La Colmena. “We are here in New York to remind the Biden-Harris ticket about their promises.”

In the same vein, Manny Castro, executive director of the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), said that organizations will be vigilant to prevent the continuation of the current system of persecution and xenophobia.

“This is how President Barack Obama ended up deporting more immigrants than any other president before him and how Bill Clinton set the stage for the deportation machine. We need immigration reform now!” stressed the community advocate. The coalition pointed out that a Democratic government in the White House does not necessarily mean less pressure against undocumented people.

The “public charge” rule and other restrictive immigration measures promoted by the Trump Administration are among the several actions that the New York coalitions group is asking Biden to repeal unambiguously as he begins his presidential term on Jan. 20.

For her part, reelected Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, who was born in Colombia, joined the demonstration to demand “urgent measures on immigration matters.” Cruz represents the 34th District of Corona-Jackson Heights in Queens, one of the bastions of South American immigration in New York City.

“We won the election. We have a Democratic mandate. Now we have to remind him and ask that he makes good on the promise he made while he was a candidate, which consists of nothing less than giving 11 million undocumented people their dignity back,” said Cruz, who has known first-hand the challenges of being an undocumented immigrant.

Dominican-born Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez added that elected officials in New York City who have been legislating and seeking relief for the immigrant community are determined to back the community’s call for the fulfillment of one of this electoral campaign’s key promises.

“Not since Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1986 have decisive steps been taken towards comprehensive reform in this matter. These policies need to be planned starting now,” said Rodríguez.

The director of the Hispanic Health Network, Guillermo Chacón, said that it is important to pay attention to the way Congress ends up being divided, as a Republican majority in the Senate would strongly push back against any such reforms.

“It is not enough to have won the presidency. That will obviously change the rhetoric of hate against our people, but we must remember that Congress is still in charge of green-lighting the president’s proposals. We still have many other paths to clear,” said Chacón.

The activist said people should be optimistic about the future of immigrants in the post-pandemic economic recovery period, as they are likely to be the ones carrying out essential work.

“We need to change the idea in some sectors that allowing a process of regularization for millions of undocumented people would be dangerous. On the contrary: If it is carried out in an orderly manner, the country will learn who really lives and works here. It is a vital workforce that only the communities we represent are able to provide,” said the Salvadoran activist.

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