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The bullshit response I got from Senator Stabenow on her vote to deny COVID relief funds to undocumented immigrants

March 1, 2021

A few weeks ago, several Democratic Senators, including Michigan Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, voted against providing COVID Relief money to undocumented immigrants.

This vote angered Immigrant Justice groups across the country, especially considering the fact that most undocumented immigrants have taxes withheld from their jobs, yet are unable to get the same kind of relief that the rest of the country has received since the pandemic began last year.

Locally, Movimiento Cosecha GR has begun organizing in response to Peters’ and Stabenow’s vote, holding a demonstration outside of the office of Senator Peters last Friday. Cosecha members stated during that protest that there would be many more actions to confront Peters and Stabenow in the coming weeks and months. 

At the same time, GR Rapid Response to ICE created an online way for people to send messages directly to Senator Peters and Senator Stabenow, letting them know how the community felt about their vote, which you can do at this link.

I sent one of those messages and a few days later got a message back from Senator Stabenow, a response I included here below.

Thank you for contacting me about my recent vote on an amendment prohibiting Economic Impact Payments for undocumented immigrants.

As you may know, Senator Young introduced this amendment during floor debate over our nation’s budget and President Biden’s economic plan. Some have inaccurately described the amendment as taking away benefits from American children who live with their undocumented parents (mixed-status families). That is not true. I would never vote to deny this benefit to American children.

In fact, this amendment simply reflects and restates current law, a law that passed the Senate late last year by a vote of 92-6. Under this law, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for Economic Impact Payments. However, U.S. citizens, including children living in a household with an undocumented immigrant, are eligible for payments. This amendment does not change that eligibility. This interpretation was affirmed by the amendment’s sponsor, who stated in the public record that “this {amendment} would not impact mixed-status families.”

With the new Biden administration, we are at a pivotal time for immigration reform. What is most disturbing to me is how those who oppose meaningful comprehensive immigration reform continue to easily sow the seeds of division and conflict.

I strongly support comprehensive reform to recognize the value and dignity of undocumented individuals who are an important part of our economy and communities. But we will never succeed in reaching that goal without focusing on our common ground and a shared vision of what legal immigration means in America. My goal is to move us toward this kind of thoughtful discussion and debate.

This is such a typical response from a politician. The response is both condescending and avoids having to own any blame for harm that is being done to the undocumented community. Senator Stabenow acknowledges the value and dignity of undocumented individuals who are an important part of our economy and communities. This is especially true in Michigan, where so much of the agricultural sector relies on undocumented migrant workers to make them money. As Chairperson of the Agriculture, Forestry and Nutrition Committee, Stabenow had to know how much money that undocumented immigrants make for the agricultural sector, since they are an important part of our economy, and yet she does not fight for them. 

In the closing paragraph, Senator Stabenow also uses terms like comprehensive reform and legal immigration. These are buzz words which are meant to suggest that Stabenow and the Democratic Party support serious immigration justice policies. However, if one reads the history of US immigration policy, you will learn that the Democratic Party has not been committed to immigration justice. Movimiento Cosecha – the immigrant-led movement – names immigrant justice as dignity, respect and permanent protection for the estimated 11 million undocumented  currently residing in the US. Since this is what one of the most active and powerful immigration justice movement proponents is calling for, then that should be the foundation of what the Democrats identify as Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

For further investigation into where US policy towards immigrants has been in recent decades, I would highly recommend the following books:

All-American Nativism: How the Bipartisan War on Immigrants Explains Politics as We Know It, by Daniel Denvir

Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism, by Harsha Walia

Also a recent interview with Harsha Walia entitled, THE DEMOCRATS’ LONG WAR ON IMMIGRANTS

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