Skip to main content
Statements and ReleasesWisconsin News

Milwaukee Council President José Perez and Other Local Leaders Issue Urgent Call to President Biden: Extend Work Permits to Long-Term Immigrants


MILWAUKEE — Today, Milwaukee City Council President José Pérez joined other local leaders to call on President Biden to grant legal work permits to long-term immigrants. The American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) hosted the press conference focused on the pressing need for the Biden administration to act this year to expand legal work permits to undocumented spouses and immediate family of United States citizens, Dreamers ineligible for DACA and long-term workers without a path to legal status. The Wall Street Journal has reported that President Biden is considering administrative action to expand access to work permits for the undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens.

José Pérez and more than 140 local and state elected officials from 21 U.S. states and territories, signed a letter in support of extending work permits to these groups. The policy is estimated to increase annual tax revenue by $13.8 billion while shielding immigrants from exploitation and advancing a strong workforce that matches worker skills to employers’ needs. (View the full letter here.)

Here’s what speakers had to say:

José G. Pérez, President of the Milwaukee City Council:

“We are asking the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden to step up and act now to support hard-working immigrant families in Wisconsin and throughout the country. They want no special favors. They want no special treatment. They want work permits to free them to contribute to our economy. Think about it, there are 54 available workers for every 100 vacancies in Wisconsin. At the same time, there are men and women who want nothing more than to get to work and build a future.” 

“Given the chance, I would tell President Biden that this is a rare opportunity to do the right thing, which goes hand in hand with good politics.”

Juan Miguel Martinez, Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Member:

“Work permits would allow 1.1 million spouses of US citizens to adjust their status. Undocumented workers are vital to the economy.

“We must push to make the Biden administration issue work permits for the undocumented. A person’s worth should not be determined on what they produce or what they can do for the economy. But if that’s what they are going to do, let them have their dignity while they do it. And have them stop living in fear while they work.”

Pam Fendt, Officer Milwaukee Area Labor Council and President Laborers’ Local 113:

“We support any steps that the Biden administration can take to make more people eligible for work permits, expedite the processing of work permits, and remove barriers to citizenship for working families – whether that be through deferred action, parole, or TPS. 

“Immigrant rights are worker rights, and the AFL-CIO is here to stand with all workers, regardless of immigration status, so that together we can hold employers accountable and keep up the fight for justice in our workplace and community.”

Darryl Morin, President, Forward Latino:

“Today in Wisconsin, we are celebrating record economic growth and strength. We are experiencing record levels of employment. You’d think that employers around the state would be celebrating but I can tell you right now, they are not. I just got back from a business conference in Washington, D.C., and I can tell you the number one concern of every employer across our country is not supply chain or even their competitors. It is accessing the labor they need not just to grow their business, but to survive.

“So where can we turn today to find a large population of motivated and capable individuals ready today to join our workforce? There is only one answer to that question and it’s our immigrant community. 

“These are the people that are going to not only keep Wisconsin strong, but allow it to grow.”

Luis Velasquez, Voces De La Frontera Action:

Our request for parole authority to grant work permits to undocumented workers by the Biden administration is not only popular and beneficial for Wisconsin businesses, but it’s humane and morally right for those who have been in the country working and paying taxes for decades. It gives my family a chance to be reunited. My parents, my two citizen brothers and I were forced to be separated by programs like 287(g), and we have lived separated for 13 years now. With President Biden’s help, my family and many, many other families like mine would be reunited! 

“In a state where the margin of victory is so slim, we cannot afford to have regrets after election day! We need to make sure that executive action for mixed immigration status families is a priority for the Biden administration. This will be a turning point for the Latino vote in Wisconsin and we will win together!

James O’Neill, Director of Legislative Affairs, American Business Immigration Coalition:

“The good news is that President Biden has the power to solve this problem. He has the ability to grant work authorization to long-term immigrant contributors in essential industries like agriculture, hospitality, construction, manufacturing and more. Biden has the power to protect our Dreamers who are too young to qualify for the DACA program. Our president has the power to keep mixed-status families together and live up to his promise: to end family separation.

“If unemployment was to get down to zero percent, there would still be over 3 million open jobs across the country, needing to be filled. The labor shortage has contributed to rising grocery costs, altered business hours and limited expansion and threatens downsizing for small businesses in every state. In Wisconsin, there are only 54 available workers for every 100 open jobs; that is staggering. We need to be adding people to our workforce and do it now.

Megan, American Families United member and impacted family:

“Many U.S. citizens are unable to obtain lawful status for their spouses due to laws passed in the ‘90s that created permanent bars for minor non-criminal issues. 

“As a result, we have U.S. citizens who for five to 20 years or longer have been banned from obtaining lawful status for their spouses. 6,000 Wisconsinites are in this exact situation. My family used to be in a similar situation. Our immigration system has separated families and forced families out of the U.S.

“President Biden has the power to reunite these families and provide work permits to those here. President Biden has abandoned our families.

“We are disillusioned and disappointed by President Biden. Harsh immigration policies are profoundly stupid — they hurt U.S. citizens and hurt our economy. Policies like work permits and sanctuary cities are smart policies that in the past would have helped my own family. 

President Biden, don’t abandon us, keep your promises — and we still have hope that you will — and help the spouses of U.S. citizens and others with work permits and family reunification.”


American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) is a bipartisan coalition of over 1,400+ CEOs, business owners, and trade associations across 17 mostly red and purple states. ABIC promotes common sense immigration reform that advances economic competitiveness, provides companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent they need, and allows the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, entrepreneurs and citizens.