During a during a town hall co-produced by Univision and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), four current members of the Senate embraced an idea so far out of the mainstream that it is almost laughable. Three were former candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. The idea they were embracing is to provide accelerated legalization for illegal aliens during the coronavirus pandemic.
While the event was pitched as a discussion about “the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic in Latino and minority communities,” Univision host Jorge Ramos quickly took the conversation in another direction and the senators delightedly obliged.
Ramos, who has been forced to defend his own immigration advocacy, prefaced his questions to the senators by stating that cannot be individuals cannot be considered both “illegal” and “essential workers.”
So, he continued, shouldn’t the United States simply legalize them?
Answering in Spanish, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said Congress should provide “accelerated” legal status to all illegal aliens.
“We have to find, for all of these groups, a path to legalization and it should be accelerated,” said Menendez. He added that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries should also be placed on a path to citizenship since they are working in “essential” jobs.
The rationale that those who violated the law to enter the U.S. and are illegally working here deserve to be awarded the same rights as American workers is preposterous, but one also shared by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
“Of course,” responded Harris when asked if Congress should be pushing for legalizing in the middle of a pandemic.
Harris, who is on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s vice presidential shortlist, added that “they should be granted legalization and put on a path toward status, and document status and citizenship.” In fact, the Californian argued a public health crisis only “enhances and even makes more important the push that we are making to allow a path to citizenship so that they have the full rights that anyone who is working hard” has.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who caucuses with the Democrats, responded without hesitation to the question of legalization.
“Of course we should move toward legal status for the undocumented as quickly as we can,” replied Sen. Sanders. The senator said that the pandemic has shown that illegal immigrants working in the fields, in grocery stores and meatpacking plans are “some of the most essential people in this country,” so should be granted protection from deportation and put on a path to citizenship.
Sanders, whose position on illegal immigration and guest worker programs has shifted dramatically to the left over the last decade, also wants Congress to “guarantee” health care for “every person, including undocumented immigrants.”
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) did not address the question of legalization, but said that anyone who is in the country and working in “essential” industries, such as food production and health care, should be able to receive assistance funds. The first COVID-19 relief bills allowed some legal immigrants to collect financial aid, but those without Social Security numbers, including illegal immigrants, were not eligible. Saying he found it “offensive” that the law denied funds to those with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs), Booker said it is something which merits being challenged in the courts.
The expedited legalization of some 12 million illegal aliens will be used as an election issue, particularly in Arizona and Texas, which have large Hispanic populations, LULAC National President Domingo Garcia told Ramos during the town hall.
Blatantly conflating Latinos and illegal aliens, Garcia contended, “We need to say that Latinos are essential workers, that there is not going to be food on your table if Latinos are all deported, especially immigrants those that are undocumented. There may not be construction in your cities.” LULAC, he said, will continue to pressure Congress to, at the very least, give “emergency temporary protective status” to illegal aliens.
It is expected that a Latino special interest organization like LULAC would willingly exploit a pandemic to achieve its political ends. But to have sitting members of the Senate actively pushing to legalize illegal workers at a time of record-level unemployment, particularly among the minority population whom they claim to represent, is political pandering at its worst.