Yale Daily News

Fifteen members of New Haven-based Unidad Latina en Acción, or ULA, traveled to Washington, D.C., in an effort to support the passing of the proposed Build Back Better Act, a framework they believe includes steps in the right direction for immigrant rights. 

The proposed bill would provide work permits and protection for up to seven million immigrant workers and provide funding to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to help with the backlog of green card and worker permit applications. The group travelled to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 15 to spend two days advocating for the bill, which they believe is just the beginning for immigration reform. 

“It is something that we are happy about and that we should fight for, but it is not all [the immigration reform] we deserve, ” ULA member Nayeli Garcia Romero said, as translated from Spanish by the News. “It’s not something we totally agree with, but it is a win, which is why we went to fight [for its passing].” 

The group met with the Alianza Nacional de Trabajadoras del Hogar, or National Domestic Workers Alliance, who had members attending from across the country. Garcia Romero said that she was pleased to see everyone’s hard work, and that they will continue to form alliances with people from other states that will support their causes. 

Rosalba Montoya Gaviria, another ULA member who went to Washington, D.C., said the group worked with the National Domestic Workers Alliance to support a variety of causes. 

“Among everything else, [we are] looking to support workers, fair work, fair pay and lawful working hours,” she said, as translated from Spanish by the News. “We are all here: white, Black, Latino and everyone else that wants to be with us. We respect everyone’s beliefs and participation … and hope people will connect with ULA.” 

The next day, the group from ULA participated in a rally at the Capitol in favor of the bill, and were able to meet multiple government officials. Among these were congresswoman Katherine Clark of the Fifth District of Massachusetts and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, who both expressed their support of the bill. 

Megan Fountain, coordinator of advocacy and partnerships of ULA, explained the importance of the Build Back Better Act. She wrote that in addition to the aforementioned protection for seven million workers, the bill would also aid immigrant workers indirectly. She noted that it includes historic investments in child care and homecare services for the elderly and disabled, which Fountain said are jobs done largely by Black and immigrant women for poverty wages. 

She also shared that ULA has been rallying and meeting with members of Congress for more than six months to urge them to “enact a path to citizenship for all 12 million undocumented immigrants, including those who did the ‘essential’ work during the pandemic, who never had the luxury to stay home.”

Fountain wrote that while the bill failed to include a path to citizenship, it does have a small but significant protection that would help undocumented immigrants live and work with dignity.

“If approved by the Senate, the bill would allow undocumented immigrants who have been here since Dec. 31, 2010 to get a work permit and permission to leave the United States to visit their family members,” Fountain wrote. “Many of our community members have gone decades without seeing their elderly parents or their children, because they are undocumented.” 

ULA will send a bus with 20 members to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7 to urge the Senate to approve the Build Back Better Act with no cuts. They will also meet with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s staff to strategize about advancing the rights of immigrant workers. 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act by a vote of 220-213; there is no set date for the Senate to vote on the bill. 

JOAQUIN FERNANDEZ-DUQUE