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Recording here

NORTH CAROLINA On Tuesday, April 30, North Carolina elected officials, business representatives; and American Families United and the bipartisan American Business Immigration Coalition urged President Biden to expand work authorization for long-term immigrants. Watch the recording here.

Fayetteville Council Member Mario Benavente and first-generation American from Peru, said, “Immigrants are vital members of our families, communities and workplaces. They deserve respect and the dignity of a work permit. The Biden administration must act, now! This is a simple solution — a ‘win-win” for American families, businesses and the economy. President Biden can grant work permits to spouses of U.S. citizens, removing the fear of deportation from their families. This will add workers to our economy, stabilizing our work force and adding to the tax base.”

Carrboro Council Member Eliazar Posada and son of immigrants, added, “Immigrants are here to stay. They are working hard, raising strong families and strong communities. President Biden must act. Here in Carrboro, many of our families, friends and long-term residents are working to create better lives for themselves, communities and families. They would benefit from this action from the President. This is why I signed the letter from the American Business Immigration Coalition urging the administration to extend work permits to these long-term contributors. These folks come from across the world and have been contributing to our economy, tax base and our cultural for years, upholding our values and being key to the fabric of our communities. As a community and as a country, we are proud to say that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are at the core of our American values. These long-term undocumented immigrants are simply working toward that ideal. From owning homes to starting businesses, to filling much-needed roles on the front lines during the pandemic or serving underpaid jobs, and being key leaders in our communities, long-term immigrants have made North Carolina their home and they deserve the dignity of work permits.”

Wallace Mayor Pro-Tem Francisco Rivas-Diaz and an immigrant from Costa Rica, whose family achieved U.S. permanent residency and U.S. citizenship, said, Immigration policy doesn’t work like it does in the movies. Even if you are married to a United States citizen, or have an employer who wants to sponsor you, it can be nearly impossible to get legal status the way the system works today. Millions of American families, including mine, have a loved one who is undocumented. Many are already living apart, due to deportation. The U.S. has 9.5 million open jobs, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. If we can’t fill those jobs, our economy can’t grow. President Biden can do the right thing and grant work permits to long-term undocumented immigrants, who want to provide for their families, contribute to our economy and be part of this great country, just like my family did. This country is a land of immigrants and our diversity has been the strength of the United States.”

Jenni is a board member with American Families United, a teacher, a U.S. citizen spouse of an undocumented immigrant and mother of two, from Raleigh. Her husband of 15 years faces a 10-year bar from the U.S. due to multiple entries. “I am here today to ask President Biden to act for my family and 23,000 other North Carolinian families, like mine, and the 1.1 million U.S. citizen spouses in my situation across the country. We need the president to grant work permits to our spouses, including to my wonderful husband of over 15 years. Having a work permit for our American family would relieve the stress in our lives because we would not have to worry about him being deported, due to immigration bars. We are sick of waiting when we have worked and paid taxes for so many years,” she said, speaking about the agonizing dilemma of family separation. “Why should my children have to suffer? Why should I have to choose between my country and my family?”

Manolo Betancur is a small business owner of Manolo’s Bakery and Artisen Vegelato in Charlotte, an immigrant from Colombia and a social entrepreneur. He said, “We have been baking for 27 years and are the first Latino bakery in North Carolina. We employ more than 70 people in North Carolina. I know how broken the immigration system is because I had a deportation order, myself.” Mr. Betancur later became a U.S. citizen, after overcoming immigration system challenges. “There are millions of families that weren’t as lucky as I was, and suffered family separation. Family separation goes against American values, what we believe, what we stand for and we are better than that. I’m here to ask President Biden to please take action on family reunification and provide work permits. The president has the power to do this and it will be a ‘win-win’ situation for everybody. We need to stop the lie that immigrants are just here to steal jobs. Many Americans don’t want to work and do the sacrifices that many immigrants are doing when they are working. The president just granted work permits to millions of new arrivals. What about people that have been working for years?’ he added. Mr. Betancur also invited President Biden to visit his ice cream shop in North Carolina.

Lorena Patterson is president and CEO of the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who also benefited from a work permit. She said, “Extending work permits to immigrants who have lived in North Carolina for years is the economically smart thing to do. We know North Carolina is your home. You have been living and working here; filling important jobs; starting businesses; creating opportunities for yourself and others and building strong families. We see you, we thank you, and we at the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber stand with you and all of these elected officials and community and business leaders in calling on the Biden administration to expand work permits to fill workforce gaps that are needed to create a stronger economy in North Carolina.” Ms. Patterson shared that according to the American Immigration Council, 86.4 percent of North Carolina’s undocumented immigrants are of working age, but unable to legally work. “We have skilled nurses, doctors, surgeons and people in construction and manufacturing that cannot work because we do not have a framework to expand work permits. We know this is important for the economy in North Carolina. We want to continue being voted number one in business, as we have in the last three years” Ms. Patterson highlighted the contributions of $772.5 million in federal, state and local taxes and $6.4 billion in spending power of undocumented immigrants to North Carolina. Further, the labor participation rate of foreign-born individuals averaged 68 percent, compared to 59.8 percent for native born. 

Cesar Remis is board chair of the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and government and regulatory consultant for the U.S. and Latin America (over 25 years experience). He stated, “expanding work permits is good common sense policy, it’s a win win for everyone. By crafting immigration policies tailored to meet specific industry needs, we can unlock untapped talent pools and drive innovation. Not only does this alleviate the strain on businesses grappling with skill shortages, but it also fosters economic growth and job creation. Moreover, such policies have the potential to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Latin American countries, facilitating nearshoring initiatives and fostering collaborative growth across the hemisphere. It could allow the realization of the nearshoring potential in the U.S. and neighboring countries, now hindered by the tremendous challenge of talent shortages. As chair of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I see the transformative impact targeted immigration can have on our local communities and broader economies. It is imperative that policymakers recognize the symbiotic relationship between immigration and economic prosperity and enact policies that harness the full potential of immigrants to drive innovation and growth.”

Yahel Flores is Carolinas State Director with American Business Immigration Coalition, and stated, “We all want the same things to work hard, take care of our families and contribute to this country. Immigrants are vital members of our families, communities and workplaces. They deserve respect and the dignity of a work permit. Already, people in North Carolina without full legal status pay $772.5 million in federal, state and local taxes and harness $6.4 billion in spending power. Granting them legal work permits would only increase their tax contributions, stabilize our workforce, and help our families. The Biden administration cannot delay any longer.”

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are 9.5 million job openings in the U.S., but only 6.5 million unemployed workers. Even if every unemployed person in the country found a job, we would still have nearly 2.4 million vacancies. Mixed-status families already contribute billions in federal, state and local taxes, but permitting undocumented spouses to work legally would increase their tax contributions by $5 billion.  

Additional key facts:

Expanding work permits for long-term contributors is overwhelmingly popular among Americans generally. Nineteen U.S. Senators; 80+ members of Congress, 300+ employers, CEOs, and associations have also endorsed work permits for long-term immigrants, along with labor organizations like SEIU, UNITE HERE, the Teamsters and United Auto Workers (UAW).