Osmán is a “dreamer” who has patiently waited for the opening of the road that will take him from his state of uncertainty to the certainty of immigration legalization. But he has not waited with his arms crossed: he obtained a degree with great effort and sacrifice, and is currently working professionally in a major communications company for the Hispanic community.
His hope was based on the promise of President Joe Biden and the Democratic leadership to include the path to legal clairvoyance and citizenship within the human infrastructure package in the reconciliation project. The first two attempts were rejected by the Senate parliamentary expert on the grounds that they imply changes in immigration laws and do not correspond to a budget project.
For many of us it will be evident that the immigration issue was never a high priority in the negotiations. But three legislators, Jesús Chuy García, Lou Correa and Adriano Espaillat, baptized as ‘Los Tres Amigos,’ launched a personal crusade to pressure the leader Nancy Pelosi to include that path to citizenship in the human infrastructure project.
In the end, political reality, which included opposition from West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, prevailed. In search of a middle ground, the Democrats included an “immigration light” version. Initially touted as a route to legal residence in naturalization, there is instead now there is a proposed process of work permits and protection against deportation for five years, renewable for an additional period.
“Others want more, I also want everything … We would have liked to have legalization, but the prospects are not good in the Senate,” acknowledged Pelosi. Garcia, Correa and Espaillat eased the pressure, in part, because of a promise by Pelosi to keep the issue on the radar of the Democrats’ priorities, that is, to prepare the ground for a later political fight.
Osmán clearly understands the political circumstances, but that does not prevent him from feeling, like many other Dreamers, disappointed. “We’re like a pawn, used strategically as a political move to achieve a goal, but that pillar is not achieved. At this moment I feel a great sadness because I realize that perhaps nothing is going to happen.”
Some activists believe that a small advance, namely obtaining work permits and protection against deportation for five years, is better than nothing. But for many of these hundreds of thousands of young people who have waited patiently, the middling option is no consolation. “For me it is not. It is a resolution that has an expiration date. Like painting stripes on the wall with each passing day,” Osmán tells us.
Osman does not blame anyone in particular, not the president, not the Democrats, not the Republicans. But the entire political class should realize how it has treated this exemplary group of Dreamers, TPS beneficiaries and essential workers who remain in the trenches of fighting the pandemic with a patriotism and sense of responsibility that the political class should emulate.
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