STATEWIDE ― A coalition of faith leaders and organizations, including many Floridians, is urging Congress and the Biden administration to use current budget reconciliation negotiations to find a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

The Interfaith Immigration Coalition says it is committed to what it calls “fair and humane immigration reform that reflects our mandate to welcome the stranger and treat all human beings with dignity and respect.”

The IIC, which includes 14 Florida faith leaders and two faith-based Florida organizations, was joined by 10 Florida mayors in appealing to Washington leadership, an appeal they say is made more urgent by the COVID pandemic.

In addition, over 1,000 Florida business leaders urged Senators Rubio and Scott to pass a path to citizenship. Recent May Day caravans and rallies took place in Miami, Orlando, and Tampa urging Congress to pass a path to citizenship.

According to the IIC, there are nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrant essential workers in Florida. They say that these essential workers have come together during COVID to help everyone get through the pandemic. And yet, they say, “many immigrants working in essential roles have been unjustly excluded from full citizenship in the United States.”

“Essential workers have faced the most significant risks amid the pandemic,” the group said in their letter to Pres. Biden. “And we know that countless immigrant members of our congregations, places of worship, and communities have worked throughout the pandemic as essential workers, providing the basic goods and critical services which have helped us all make it through this terrible season.”

“Our undocumented communities cannot afford to wait any longer or be offered temporary reliefs,” said American Friends Service Committee – Florida Advocacy and Campaigns Coordinator Mariana Martinez. “The administration needs to deliver on their promises and pass citizenship for all. Programs like DACA and TPS have given people the opportunities and access to higher education, drivers’ licenses, healthcare, and simple basics everyone deserves the right to have; it is only right and just to pass a pathway for permanent protections for all immigrants.”

“We come to you with urgency, knowing that the COVID-19 crisis has profoundly impacted already marginalized groups in society including Black, Latino, indigenous, immigrant, and refugee communities,” the IIC letter to Pres. Biden and Senate leadership says. “We respectfully request that you include a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers, farm workers, people with DACA, TPS, and DED, and their families in the upcoming recovery packages you have prioritized through reconciliation. An inclusive legislative proposal on immigration relief, which recognizes the dignity of all, is long overdue. Our immigrant family members and neighbors who are integral parts of this nation deserve the protection and opportunity of a clear path to citizenship.”

Florida faith leaders who signed the appeal include Sister Florence Bryan, Sisters of St. Joseph; Rev. Clelia Garrity, St. Simon's on the Sound Episcopal Church; Reverend Justo Gonzalez, Spring Hill UCC; Mary Ann Holtz, Pax Christi; Dorothy Kobylanski, First Christian, Disciples of Christ; Ana Mateo, Calvario City Church; Chair Linda Miklowitz, National Council of Jewish Women; Silvia Munoz Pedro, Arrupe Jesuit Institute; Nancy O'Byrne, Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Augustine; Sister Patricia O"Malley, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur; Liliette Ouellette School Sisters of Notre Dame; Gloria Schaab, Sisters of Saint Joseph; Phyllis Snyder, NCJW; Amy Zeder, JustFaith graduate, St. John XXIII Catholic Church.

“The people of Florida are calling on Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to ensure that a path to citizenship for our immigrant family members, neighbors, and friends becomes law this year,” the group said.

“The Senate and the Biden administration must seize this opportunity and move things forward on immigration,” said Elissa Diaz, policy and advocacy manager at Church World Service and co-chair of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. “A path to citizenship has broad support across the country, including among people of faith. It would transform the lives of so many children and families, including those who are members of our congregations, places of worship, and communities. The House has acted and we are halfway there. Now, the Senate and the Biden administration must come through and pass a path to citizenship this year.”

For more information about the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and its efforts, visit www.interfaithimmigration.org.

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