Illegal Immigrants Deserve ‘A Pathway To Citizenship’ Because of Coronavirus, Ayanna Pressley Says

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The suffering of illegal immigrants during the coronavirus emergency means they should get a path to citizenship in the United States, U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley said.

“We rely on the same immigrants who our country has historically refused to prioritize. It’s not just that their work is essential. Their lives are. And the fact that there are nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants, who have borne the brunt of this pandemic, it is time we showed up for them as they have always shown up for us, by committing to ensure that they have a pathway to citizenship,” Pressley said Friday during an online forum in favor of amnesty.

Pressley (D-Dorchester) also called for defunding two federal agencies that enforce federal immigration law:  Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“I will not for one second stop fighting against the ongoing criminalization of our immigrant neighbors, as ICE continues to prey upon our communities. I’ll continue to fight so not one more dollar – not one – goes to this calumnist and rogue agencies, of ICE and CBP,” Pressley said.

New Boston Post contacted immigration skeptics seeking a response to Pressley’s comments.

Matthew Tragesser, press secretary for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports reducing immigration, said the federal immigration agencies are essential for maintaining a reasonable immigration policy.

“Federal immigration agencies — including ICE and CBP — remain indispensable components of U.S. law enforcement. These agencies enhance the nation’s public safety and are vital in securing our borders and removing those who are here unlawfully,” Tragesser said in an email message. “The brave men and women serving in these agencies are needed more than ever as southern border apprehensions last month were the largest in more than a decade. Any effort to dismantle federal immigration agencies is misguided and reckless.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports lowering immigration levels, criticized Pressley’s linking of coronavirus with granting citizenship for people in the country illegally.

“It’s downright silly and even insulting to suggest that illegal aliens in the United States have ‘borne the brunt of this pandemic,’ as if the contributions and suffering of Americans and legal immigrants are non-existent and of no concern. We all have suffered, and such comments are divisive and suggest that Ms. Pressley is more concerned about the welfare of illegal aliens than of Americans and legal immigrants,” Vaughan said in an email message. “Few believe that our country owes a path to citizenship for those who have entered and remained in defiance of our laws.”

The forum on Friday, February 19 was sponsored by The New England Council, which advocates for businesses in the region and lobbies for its members. Several pro-immigration groups also sponsored the event, including the American Business Immigration Coalition; The Massachusetts Business Immigration Council; Maine Business Immigration Council; The Presidents’ Alliance On Higher Education and Immigration (which consists of college presidents); and Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.