‘There should not be forgiveness’: immigrant advocates protest ‘false promises’ during Biden visit

Immigration reform activists wait for President Biden across the street from the Hilton Philadelphia, where he addressed the House Democratic Caucus. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Immigration reform activists wait for President Biden across the street from the Hilton Philadelphia, where he addressed the House Democratic Caucus. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

President Joe Biden’s visit to Philadelphia Friday to speak at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference drew dozens of protesters, who say the President has not delivered on immigration reform.

One of Biden’s campaign promises was to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., but that effort has hit roadblocks. Democrats tried to include more limited immigration reform measures in the Build Back Better legislation, but that has also stalled.

“President Biden, over a year has passed since your inauguration in 2021. For so many Pennsylvanians, it was a time of high hopes because of your promises for a more humane immigration system,” said Mel Lee, executive director of Woori Center, at Friday’s rally. “But President Biden, during your time in office so far, you have failed us on nearly every front.”

Immigration reform activists wait for President Biden across the street from the Hilton Philadelphia, where he addressed the House Democratic Caucus. (Emma Lee/WHYY)
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Protestors at Friday’s rally came from a number of organizations, including Movement of Immigrant Leaders in PA, Make the Road Pennsylvania and the PA Immigration & Citizenship Coalition.

Andy Kang, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition, peaks to protesters as they await the arrival of President Biden, who addressed the House Democratic Caucus at the Philadelphia Hilton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Speakers said the President used their communities to gain support during the election, then did not follow through.

“We’re part of a diverse immigrant movement here in Philadelphia that is large, and it is tired of the false promises of Biden and political figures like him, that use our community to reach positions of power without completing their word,” said Erika Guadalupe Núñez, who directs the South Philly-based Latinx immigrant organization Juntos.

Erika Guadalupe Núñez, Executive Director of JUNTOS, peaks to protesters as they await the arrival of President Biden, who addressed the House Democratic Caucus at the Philadelphia Hilton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“There should not be forgiveness,” she added. “We should not forget how these political figures treat us.”

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The protesters demanded a path to citizenship, a stop to deportations, an end to ICE contracts for immigrant prisons, and the closure of immigrant detention centers in Pennsylvania — including one in Berks County that reopened early this year after closing the year before. Immigrant detentions rose during Biden’s first few months in office.

Blanca Pacheco, co-director of the New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, said the change in administrations has not made a difference for immigrant communities.

“We are in the same government circus, with a different clown,” she said.

Blanca Pacheco, co-director of New Sanctuary Movement Philadelphia, speaks to protesters as they await the arrival of President Biden, who addressed the House Democratic Caucus at the Philadelphia Hilton. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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