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WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, April 16, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) hosted a Capitol Hill briefing with U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) about the enormous contributions that long-term undocumented immigrants already make to our communities and economy. He was joined by leaders from business, labor, and American families of mixed citizenship status in calling on President Biden to expand access to work permits for long-term U.S. residents who are undocumented. Watch the recording; download images.

“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  Our laws are supposed to provide U.S. citizens an opportunity to sponsor their noncitizen family members, but our outdated immigration system includes many categorical bars that prevent spouses from obtaining status.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 Senator 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.”

Added Sen. Padilla, “We need to do more to provide stability and dignity for those who have earned it. That’s why I joined Senator Durbin in calling upon the Biden administration to use the authority that they have to do this and more. And while we push for the president to exercise his executive authority, we recommit to the long-term efforts here in Congress, the legislative process to provide citizenship for essential workers, a pathway to citizenship for the millions of long-term U.S. residents and more dignity and respect for them and their families.”

Rebecca Shi, Executive Director, American Business Immigration Coalition, said, “We are inspired by President Biden granting work permits to new migrants and ask that he extends the same dignity of a legal work permit to long term residents, including spouses of U.S. citizens.”

“As we outline in our new analysis, President Biden should expand eligibility for Parole in Place to spouses of U.S. citizens both for the significant benefits that parole would afford them and their American families, but also our economy,” said Dr. Phillip Connor, senior demographer at, who presented his latest demographic analysis. According to the report, extending work permits to the undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens would boost the economy by $16 billion and add at least $5 billion in extra tax revenue.

Family-leaders from American Families United (AFU) traveled to DC from Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin to make their families a priority in immigration discussions happening within the administration and on Capitol Hill.

Heather Gonzalez, from Ohio, is Vice-President of American Families United. She said, ”The system doesn’t work for U.S. citizens like me, and it doesn’t work like you see in the movies. You do not marry an American citizen and automatically get a green card. We have members whose spouses were already deported, or have left the country and are now stuck, trying to find a path back. We are US citizens fighting for our undocumented spouses. President Biden, we are tired and frustrated of being left out, but we are not giving up! We’ve launched a national campaign, Protecting American Families, with events in California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina, and Nevada. President Biden, we need you to act now. No US citizen should be forced to choose between their country and their spouse. Some of us have been living this life in limbo for decades and more. President Biden-  follow through on your promise and bring long overdue relief to Americans in mixed status marriages with the power of your pen.” 

Allyson, from Philadelphia, board member for American Families United 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.”

The senators and leaders from American Families United were joined by labor and business leaders as well. “Our union supports expanding work permits for long-term undocumented individuals because it is an important step to help immigrant workers be more secure in their workplaces and provide stability to immigrant families,” said Karen Kent, President of UNITE HERE Local 1.

“As a mother of two sons and a former caseworker for young people in the state’s care, I have often wished I had a magic wand to protect our children. Well, we can create magic right now by expanding work permits for long-term undocumented people. We can ensure that immigrant families and children have the stability and protection they deserve,” said Roushaunda Williams, member of UNITE HERE Local 1 who serves on the Executive Board of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Gerardo Diaz of Illinois represented his family and American Families United. He said, “I’m a blue-collar American, born and raised in Aurora, Illinois. I’m tired of waiting for you, President Biden, to act for my two beautiful children, my daughter Nathalia, 7, and my son Gerry, 2, who I haven’t been able to live with for two years because they are with their mother, my beautiful wife Elizabeth, who was rejected at her immigration interview in El Salvador and hasn’t been allowed home. How many more American families will have to be separated like mine before you use your authority? My daughter Nathalia and son Gerry are waiting for your answer.”

Added Sam Sanchez, owner of Third Coast Hospitality and a Board Member at the National Restaurant Association, “The President has provided work permits to 1.4 million new arrivals over the last 13 months from Venezuela, Cuba, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Nicaragua, Haiti and more; while 8.1 million Mexicans have worked and paid taxes to this country for 20, 30 years and never had a legal work permit. These individuals have been waiting for work permits for decades and now have U.S. citizen spouses and children who are of voting age. It’s offensive that the White House is denying my employees and other immigrants the same dignity of a legal work permit being granted new arrivals. President Biden, if you like our labor, our sweat and our taxes, please, please extend the dignity of work permits for Mexicans and long-term immigrants.”

Mariana, a Dreamer at DePaul University and member of Pilsen Neighbors in Chicago, said, “Despite dedicating the past four years pursuing my education, I am prohibited from working in a public accounting firm. The absence of a work permit hinders my ability to secure scholarships that will fund my master’s program and prevents me from engaging with future employers. A work permit would give me and my parents better jobs and allow me to pursue my dreams of becoming a CPA.”

Matt Teagarden, CEO of the Kansas LIvestock Association, stated, “Long-term immigrants are already making invaluable contributions to agriculture and many more have the skills to fill the gaps in our workforce and would do so, if given the opportunity of a work permit. American farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most abundant food supply in the world, but unless we fix the labor crisis we will see more crops rotting in the field, livestock operations unable to grow and more of our food production moving overseas. Farmers and ranchers need workers.”

Everk Sanchez, from Arizona, is married with five daughters. His wife has DACA. Everk said, “I am one of 32,000 Arizona families pleading with President Biden to grant work permits to our immigrant spouses. I am married to an amazing woman named Rosa Elena. She’s a DACA recipient. Rosa owns and operates a small family carpentry business in Arizona where she works hard to provide not just for her family, but also for her parents, employees and our community. She’s a wonderful mother and a pillar of strength for her five daughters. Our family is one of so many who embody the American dream. Our 13-year-old recently had the chance to perform with her mariachi band at the White House. I never imagined that our broken immigration system would threaten to separate my family because of outdated laws. Rosa could be forced to leave our children or a home or our community behind. We came to Washington, D.C. to try to fix this problem and keep our family together — to help other families. Spouses of U.S. citizens, like my wife, should not be separated from their families.”

Irayda Flores, Owner of El Mar de Cortez Corporation in Arizona, said, “I have created many jobs in this country. I am a living example of the American dream, but along the way I have faced many struggles in my pursuit of a Green Card (which I proudly received last year). I am just one example of the potential immigrants have for our communities and economy. As a business owner, I can tell you we need more workers. Immigrants are here to work. President Biden, you are a leader, so lead and don’t wait on others. Use your authority to grant work permits to long-term immigrants who are fueling our economy.”

Amanda, an American Families United member representing 17,000 U.S. citizens in Michigan and married to her husband for nearly nine years; parents of two children, said, “We have been dealing with my husband’s immigration issues for years. We tried doing things the so-called ‘right way,’ but it was not successful for us due to inadmissible bars. He was denied his return to the U.S. with our family, after his consular interview in Mexico. We suffered a lot over the years. Last year, due to stress, my husband suffered a brain aneurysm and needed emergency brain surgery. I was thousands of miles away and completely helpless. Even in that dire circumstance, we were unable to get any type of relief. Thankfully, my husband recovered and returned with us in the U.S., through other legal channels. But, this does not fix the problem

Megan, U.S. citizen from Wisconsin, with husband for 20 years; parents of two children, said, “My husband has worked in multiple industries. Despite this, my family can be separated or I can be forced to leave my country just like thousands of other U.S. citizens. These are the immigration policies that are actually hurting U.S. citizens and 6,000 Wisconsinites are in the same situation as me. Frankly, I am shocked that President Biden hasn’t taken the issue of family separation of U.S. citizens seriously. He has the authority to act and provide our spouses with work permits and protection from separation.”

Lillie Williams is from Pennsylvania, and has been married for 10 years to a Honduran man. 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.”

Jason Rochester, a Teamster from Georgia, has been married for 17 years. The couple’s son was diagnosed with kidney cancer after Jason’s wife was subjected to a 10-year bar over six years ago. He said, “We’ve seen President Biden grant parole and family reunification to hundreds of thousands of new migrants from Venezuela and Cuba over the last year. AFU has a political report showing many of us live in swing states where our numbers are greater than the vote difference between the winner and loser of the 2020 elections. We’re asking President Biden, when is it going to be our turn? We waited for 10, 15, 20 years. When will you treat American families with the same dignity and respect as new migrants?”

Lisa Winton, CEO of Winton Machine in Georgia, stated, “We talk about manufacturing and the growth here in the United States and bringing it back and reshoring. We need the people to fill those jobs if we’re going to continue to grow and thrive in the coming years and get these workers. We need President Biden to use his authority under current law to extend work permits for immigrant workers who have been contributing to the U.S. economy for years. I appreciate Senator Durbin’s leadership in this issue and I’m glad that my senator Raphael Warnock signed on to his letter urging the president to grant work permits to a critical group of immigrants. The labor shortage is being widely felt. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has ranked Georgia more severe when it comes to labor shortages. We currently have 54 workers for every 100 open jobs.

“There are countless immigrants eager with deep roots in our communities who are ready to work, yet constrained by the immigration reform gridlock in D.C. Unlocking their labor power via work permits is a practical solution President Biden can activate right now. President Biden, I encourage you to grant workforce authorization for long-term immigrants. Keep manufacturing here in the United States and fill our factories with workers.”

Jenni Rivera is from North Carolina. She is the U.S. citizen spouse of an undocumented immigrant; together, they have two daughters. She said, “I’m here today to ask President Biden to act for my family, the 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. We are sick of waiting when we have worked and paid taxes for so many years. We contemplated my husband leaving the country to start living out his bars, but we could not think of a time when our children did not need both of us. Why should my children have to suffer? Why should I have to choose between my country and my family?”

Manolo Betancur is the owner of Manolo’s Bakery in Charlotte, North Carolina, an immigrant from Colombia and a social entrepreneur. He said, “as a Small Business owner and an American citizen, I need more people to work with, and I don’t have it. As a father, I can’t imagine my life here with my family deported. As a citizen, I say family separation goes against the values of this nation. Please, President Biden, we are better than this and we can fix it.”

Senators Durbin, Rosen, Warnock, Fetterman and fifteen 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.

Senators Durbin, Padilla, Rosen, Warnock, Fetterman and 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, DHS Secretary Mayorkas acknowledged the call to action. The proposal is legally sound, politically smart and requires only discreet updates to the existing USCIS policy manual to expand work permits to nuclear relatives of U.S. citizens.  

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 2.4 million open jobs across the U.S. 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. 


American Business Immigration Coalition (ABIC) is a bipartisan coalition of over 1,200+ 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.