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Pennsylvanians Called for Work Permits for Long-Term Immigrant Contributors on Capitol Hill

Watch Durbin economic briefing and García press conference; download photos

WASHINGTON Allyson Batista, a board member of American Families United, and Lillie Williams, a member of American Families United, traveled from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. on April 16-17 for a briefing on Capitol Hill, calling on the Biden administration to extend work permits  to immigrants who are long-term members of American families and residents of U.S. communities. To interview them about their experiences, contact

Allyson’s family was featured in a new story from the The Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, the duo participated in an economic briefing hosted by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (R-IL), with U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA). On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL) held a press conference at the House Triangle to make the case for work permits for all, alongside other business, labor, community and family leaders. He and U.S. Representatives Correa (D-CA) and Espaillat (D-NY) also sent a letter to the Biden administration accelerating this call to act. 

The New York Times reported on the growing frustration among families of mixed immigration status and employers across the country, who want President Biden to extend work permits to immigrants who have been living in and contributing to this country for years.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the campaign by U.S. citizens seeking work permits for their non-citizen spouses and other long-term residents to stabilize the workforce, grow the economy and keep families together. Allyson Batista, a U.S. citizen, with her husband, are featured.

Watch the economic briefing and Congressman Garcia’s press event; access photos from both days in Washington, D.C.

Allyson Batista of Philadelphia is a board member of American Families United. She said, “My husband and I have 3 children. When I started fighting for my family and families like mine, my kids were in strollers. Now they’re adults wanting to start their lives as contributing U.S. citizens, but their father’s status remains an obstacle to their goals. I deserve to enter the next phase of my life peacefully without this constant fear of familial devastation by separation or exile looming over our family. If this warrants another 20 years of advocacy from me, I will be 72 years old and I fear resolution may come too late for my family. We see over migrants who arrived in the last several months gain work permits and family reunification through parole while our American families waited 20 years, working, paying taxes and CREATING jobs like my husband. We are stuck, left out, and feel disrespected.”

Lillie Williams is also from Pennsylvania, and has been married to a Honduran man for 10 years. Their son is five years old and she is now pregnant with his little brother. Lillie said, “We’re tired of waiting for the Biden administration to act for American families like mine. Our ask to President Biden is that he please grant my American Pennsylvania family the option to live in safety to grant my husband and all spouses of U.S. citizens a work permit. We’ve owned three businesses together — a cafe, coffee shop and now a landscaping business. We have been job creators and employers, but my husband’s looking to be an employee for his own businesses. We need the government to take action that is in their control to allow us to grow our family, our businesses and live securely, without worrying about what tomorrow will bring.”

“Today, there are an estimated 1.1 million U.S. citizens married to an undocumented immigrant.  Our laws are supposed to provide U.S. citizens an opportunity to sponsor their noncitizen family members, but our outdated immigration system includes many categorical bars that prevent spouses from obtaining status. These families live in fear that their loved ones may be deported at any time,” said U.S. Sen. Durbin. “These immigrants already pay taxes and work in our communities. If they were given a path to citizenship, it would bring stability to their families—and they would pay an additional $5 billion dollars in taxes.”

Durbin continued, “It’s time for our Republican colleagues in Congress to set aside extremist rhetoric and come to work with us on solutions. But American families need solutions now.  That is why I led a letter with 18 of my colleagues to President Biden asking him to provide the spouses of U.S. citizens with a work permit.  It is only a temporary solution—ultimately Congress needs to act.  But it is essential that we do everything possible in the meantime to allow these families to live free of fear of deportation and stay together.”

“I’ve heard from employers across my district. They need workers, and they want to hire the ‘right way’. I’ve heard from my constituents who have been waiting for too long to get work permits,” said U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García. “Our message to the President is clear. It’s past time we provide immigrants, who’ve already been doing the work and keeping our country running, with the work permits they deserve. Jobs not only create opportunities for immigrant families, but also bring stability to entire communities. We are stronger because of immigrants, not despite them. Expanding access to them is a matter of economic justice.”

U.S. Senators Durbin, Rosen, Warnock, Fetterman and 15 other senators recently sent a letter to President Biden asking him to “protect and unify American families” and “provide much needed relief for undocumented immigrants and the American businesses, families, and communities that rely upon them.” Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson; Iris Ramos Jones, Director of the Nevada Office for New Americans (appointed by Gov. Lombardo); more than 80 Members of Congress; and hundreds of leaders representing U.S business, labor, local government, faith, civil rights and family voices have been calling for this commonsense policy change for years.

On April 5, U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas acknowledged the call to action. The proposal is legally sound, politically smart and requires only discreet updates to the existing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy manual to expand work permits to nuclear relatives of United States citizens.  

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we have 9.5 million job openings in the U.S., but only 6.5 million unemployed workers. Even if unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have nearly 2.4 million vacancies. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office attributes a $7 trillion increase to the national GDP to immigration. While mixed-status families already contribute billions in federal, state and local taxes, a FWD.US estimate finds that permitting undocumented spouses to work legally would increase their tax contributions by $5 billion

Immigrants make vital contributions to Pennsylvania’s economy and communities. Key facts:

In addition to Pennsylvania, the U.S. economy depends upon a foreign-born labor force to alleviate national labor shortages, reduce inflation and grow by $7 trillion more over the next decade. Immigrants in the U.S. have a combined household income of $2.1 trillion and contribute $382.9 billion to federal taxes and $196.3 billion in state and local taxes, leaving them with $1.6 trillion in spending power.