WASHINGTON, D.C. — Seventy members of the New York City-based New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE) traveled to Washington, D.C. on Monday with a message for President Joe Biden ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union Address.
“The reason we’re here at the people’s State of the Union is because we haven’t seen movement on our central demand, which is citizenship for all,” NICE Executive Director Diana Moreno told Latino Rebels beside the Capitol Reflecting Pool. “After one year of the Biden administration, after all the promises that we heard about what would happen if Democrats took office, we’ve been extremely disappointed. This is our eighth or ninth time in Washington, D.C. over the last 12 months. It is ridiculous that we have to push so much to get so little or nothing.”
As a non-profit organization, NICE’s focus is on day laborers, domestic workers, and newly arrived immigrants looking for work in New York City. While other immigrant advocacy organizations have scaled back their pressure campaigns after the collapse of Congressional Democrats’ legislative relief efforts last year, NICE has remained at the forefront of pushing Congress and the administration to enact meaningful immigrant relief for immigrant families.
“After two years of surviving a pandemic that disproportionately impacted communities of color,” Moreno continued. “After this country was sustained during that pandemic by care workers, farmworkers, construction workers, cleaning workers, who were overwhelmingly immigrants, it is embarrassing that we have yet to see any movement on a comprehensive pathway to citizenship for the people who have sustained this country during the pandemic.”
Several such workers were on-hand at Monday’s protest to tell their stories.
“I’m the mother of a Marine,” Irma, a NICE member, told Latino Rebels. “I’m very proud of that, but Biden should know what I’m feeling, that I’m contributing so much to this country. And Vice President Kamala, too, who comes from a family of immigrants—she should put herself in our shoes and speak to us directly. It’s so sad that we have to live like this in the United States in an era of mass deportations.”
Two other NICE members, Alejandra and Johanny, recounted instances of their immediate family members being killed by gangs.
Alejandra, a construction worker in New York City, spoke of her brother who was beaten to death and left on her doorstep. She said her brother’s killers had escaped justice due to law enforcement not taking her pain seriously because she is an immigrant and had difficulties navigating the legal system in English.
Despite working 40 hours per week on construction sites, Alejandra said she is now studying to get her GED, which includes intensive English-language learning that she thinks will help her pursue justice for her murdered brother.
“They’ve got us trapped in a golden cage,” said Johanny, a sentiment repeated by several immigrants at the protest. “It’s past time they pass immigration reform that gives citizenship to the 11 million of us who have been promised a reform since Ronald Reagan but nothing has happened. We are workers. We aren’t here to do anything but benefit this country.
“Prisoners in this country’s jails have more rights than we do,” she added. “We want the right to soar in this country, to soar out of the shadows, out of our golden cages.”
Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports