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  • Writer's pictureVoces Unidas Action Fund

Here to Work campaign kick-off seeks work permits for long-term immigrants

Colorado is among the many states grappling with workforce and immigration challenges posed by a tightening labor market, a stalled Congress, and long overdue solutions for long-term immigrant contributors who have been in the United States for decades without any path to fully contribute and fill much-needed jobs.

As immigrants, we came here to work. And we remain ready to work. All we need is the federal government to act.

Voces Unidas is one of more than 350 businesses, employers and organizations trying to make that request a reality. Along with our partners at the American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC), we are launching the local initiative of the “Here to Work” campaign seeking work permits for all — permisos de trabajo para todos – with a rally and press conference on the West Steps of the Colorado State Capitol Building at 10 a.m. on October 25.

With the support of Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, Colorado House of Representatives Majority Leader Rep. Monica Duran and multiple community and business leaders, we are asking President Biden to use his existing legal authority to expand work permits to long-term immigrant contributors to the U.S. economy, including spouses of U.S. citizens, Dreamers without DACA, farm workers and other long-term immigrants who have lived on the outskirts of society for far too long.

President Biden can expand work authorization with the stroke of a pen. INA 212(d)(5)(A) grants the Secretary of Homeland Security the discretionary authority to parole noncitizens into the U.S. temporarily, on a case-by-case basis, for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. In fact, the Biden administration has granted a historic number of parole work permits to 567,000 Afghanis, Ukrainians, Venezuelans, and Cubans immigrating to the United States, announcing that work permits would be given to 500,000 Venezuelan immigrants just last month.

This is great and we applaud President Biden for using existing law to grant parole. But what about the existing long-term immigrant contributors who have been living in the shadows for decades?

Given the nation’s prevailing labor shortage, it’s evident that President Biden can use his existing legal authority to include long-term immigrant contributors as a significant public benefit. The “Here to Work” campaign offers a common-sense solution — supported by bipartisan employers and immigrant communities — to boost the economy and bring relief to millions of people who already contribute to the workplace and everyday life in the United States.

Polling for the 2023 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda showed that an overwhelming majority of Latina and Latino voters in Colorado (80%) want the Biden administration to offer better support and policy solutions to our long-term immigrant contributors, and 70% support President Biden using executive authority to do it on his own. According to the Immigration Policy Institute’s estimate of undocumented immigrants in the state, more than 162,000 Coloradans could benefit from a work permit granted by the administration.

That’s more than 162,000 new workers that could easily fill our state’s growing labor shortage despite near-record unemployment rates. It’s more than 162,000 lives improved by eliminating a stigma that has kept many of us underground for decades. It’s entire communities benefiting from economic stability that has eluded so many for so long. And, frankly, it’s just common sense.

Recently, Congressional leaders called on the President to take the next step and do right by all mixed-status families, and immigrants from all over the world. A bipartisan set of governors including Republican Governors Spencer Cox of Utah and Eric Holcomb of Indiana, and Democrats JB Pritzker of Illinois and Kathy Hochul of New York, have also taken up the cause, urging the President to expand workforce authorization to long-term immigrant contributors as well as new arrivals. Governor Jared Polis also supports the goals of the "Here to Work" campaign.

Voces Unidas has joined this national, bipartisan coalition to urge President Biden to expand work permits, including parole-in-place for the long-term undocumented, humanitarian parole for the spouses of U.S. citizens, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) redesignation, and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

In addition to our kick-off rally in Denver on Oct. 25, Voces Unidas will be among the advocates convening a large march and rally on Nov. 14 in Washington, D.C. for the Here to Work “Day of Action” as momentum builds for this movement. We encourage you to stay tuned for details on ways you can contribute to the campaign as we roll up our sleeves and go to work.



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