[Congressional Record Volume 166, Number 139 (Wednesday, August 5, 2020)]
[Pages S4911-S4913]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Mr. MENENDEZ. Mr. President, I come to the Senate floor to speak 
about a topic that is very close to my heart.
  As the son of Cuban refugees and as a first-generation American, the 
struggles of immigrant families are not something I read about in books 
or watched on television. I lived them. I saw with my own eyes what it 
meant to grow up in an immigrant family in a low-income tenement in 
Union City, NJ. My mother worked tirelessly as a seamstress and 
sacrificed everything to make sure that my siblings and I could have a 
better life and a better future, because that is the very essence of 
what we call the American dream. It is about ensuring that the next 
generation has it better than we do and that our children and 
grandchildren and their children and grandchildren have greater 
opportunities than we do to realize their full potential.
  It doesn't matter who you are, where you are from, or when your 
ancestors came to this country. We are a nation built by immigrants. 
Every single member of this great and storied body is a descendant of 
those who came to America, seeking better lives for themselves and 
their loved ones.
  The President is a second-generation American. His grandfather, 
Friedrich Trump, came here from Germany. Our First Lady is herself an 
immigrant. Yet this administration and President Trump have gone to 
painstaking lengths to deny, erase, and ignore the contributions of 
immigrants to American life and culture, innovation and ingenuity, 
economy and prosperity. They have worked overtime to deny the very fact 
that the immigrant story is America's story.
  As an old saying in Spanish goes, (English translation of the 
statement made in Spanish is as follows): ``There is nothing worse than 
not wanting to see what is right in front of you.''
  Donald Trump's endless lies and attacks on immigrants started long 
before he descended down that escalator in Trump Tower to announce his 
run for the Presidency. They haven't stopped since.
  The President recently took another aggressive step in his war to 
erase immigrants from the portrait of America when he issued an 
unconstitutional edict to exclude our undocumented brothers and sisters 
from being counted in the 2020 census for the purpose of determining 
representation in Congress.
  His message was loud and clear to immigrant communities across the 
country: You are not welcome here. You don't belong here. You don't 
  His goal is to instill fear in immigrant communities, and that is 
shameful and un-American.
  Let's be clear. The U.S. Constitution is explicit on this particular 
point. Article I, section 2 clearly reads: ``Representatives and direct 
Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be 
included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, 
which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free 
  The census requires an accurate count of all persons living in the 
country. It does not distinguish between status or citizenship. It 
could have read that it requires an account of all citizens of the 
then-United States, of the Union. It could have read that it is an 
account of all citizens and all legal permanent residents. It didn't 
read that either.
  It specifically recognized this because, as the Union was developing, 
there were people from different walks of life in the United States, 
and it purposely understood that not all of them would necessarily be 
citizens at the time of accounting, but who was in America at any given 
time from the creation of the Constitution was important--all persons.
  My friends, we have been sent here to serve all of our constituents 
in our home States, no matter the color of their skin, their gender, or 
their legal status.
  The history of America is intertwined with immigrant stories. In 
every State of our Union, immigrants work in every industry and 
contribute in all facets of American life--the most important parts of 
our lives.
  They work in our fields, picking our fruits and vegetables. They are 
checkers at grocery stores and construction workers, building our 
bridges and homes. They educate our children in our schools. They treat 
the sick in our hospitals as nurses, doctors, and mental health 
professionals. They wear the uniform and carry our flag in the U.S. 
armed services.
  In fact, during this pandemic, hundreds of thousands of immigrants, 
including undocumented immigrants, have put their lives on the line to 
serve as essential frontline workers and to keep businesses open, 
despite the administration actively seeking to deport them.
  Like many American citizens, they are risking their lives every day, 
while being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, to provide others 
with the services they need and to protect the health and safety of our 
fellow Americans. All the while, they are facing disproportionate 
infection and death rates from this horrible disease. They are the 
invisible heroes of this pandemic. They are the ones who make it 
possible for us to receive the essential goods and services so that we 
can stay home, which is what we are told by the Nation's public health 
  But the message from the President to these essential workers, who 
perform backbreaking work in our fields, care for our children, or 
treat you at the hospital is: You are not worthy.
  I ask every single one of my colleagues if, God forbid, you were 
infected with COVID-19, would you really care about the citizenship 
status of the doctor or nurse treating you? Would you ask for his or 
her legal papers before getting help? Would any of you refuse to eat 
fruit or vegetables in your homes picked by the calloused hands of an 
undocumented immigrant sweating in our fields? Would you rather not 
have a highway built in your State because the workers have a native 
language other than English?

[[Page S4912]]

  Now, many of you would tell me that is nonsense. But yet, the Trump 
Presidency has been marked by deafening silence in the face of this 
inflammatory, xenophobic, immoral campaign against immigrants.
  Just take the example of TPS and DACA beneficiaries. As my home State 
of New Jersey struggled in the early days of the pandemic--until 
recently, we had the second-most cases of COVID-19--temporary 
protective status holders like Madelia Cartagena in Newark and Dreamers 
like Daysi from Monmouth County rose to the challenge presented by the 
  As more than 131,000 temporary protective status holders across the 
Nation, and 7,500 in New Jersey alone, Madelia was considered an 
essential worker as the company she has worked for in the last 17 years 
had to respond to the increasing demand for sanitizer dispensers.
  For Daysi, the fact that she was brought to the United States from 
Central America at just 9 years old meant nothing to the patients whose 
lives she was helping to save. What mattered is that she showed up when 
she was needed, and that she did so despite the lingering threat that 
DACA, or deferred action for children arrivals, would be abruptly 
terminated, and with it her ability to remain in this country. She 
showed up every day, helping to save lives.
  Put simply, TPS holders like Madelia and DACA beneficiaries like 
Daysi help us heal and will also help our economy recover. They 
represent among the best of America.
  To give you some context, when I say they will help our economy 
recover, Dreamers bring in a net $3.4 billion annually to the U.S. 
Treasury and generate $42 billion in gross domestic product each year--
  Yet the administration has fought tooth and nail to send Dreamers 
packing, despite the American flag being the only one they have ever 
pledged allegiance to and the national anthem being the only national 
anthem they have ever sung.
  Even after the Supreme Court's recent ruling--the Supreme Court, the 
highest Court in the land--that the termination of DACA was unlawful, 
the administration has openly defied the Supreme Court's order by not 
reopening the full DACA Program.
  These Dreamers are battling the coronavirus and the Trump 
  Polls show that even a majority of Trump voters want to protect 
Dreamers from deportation, and wide swaths of registered voters support 
Dreamers, regardless of the voter's gender, education, income, 
ethnicity, religion, or ideology. That includes 68 percent of 
Republicans, 71 percent of conservatives, and 64 percent of those who 
approve of the job the President is doing.
  But instead of accepting the Supreme Court's decision and 
acknowledging the enormous contributions of Dreamers, this 
administration is planning new efforts to end DACA. It is no secret. 
They indicate as much in the latest Department of Homeland Security 
  And let's be honest. If it is not outright termination they seek, the 
administration will treat the protection of Dreamers as a bargaining 
chip in order to undo our legal immigration system. They want to cut 
legal family immigration in exchange for what they call a merit-based 
immigration system. That would be pretty shameful and offensive because 
there are many who are here who would never be here under a merit-based 
  This administration and my Republican colleagues need to open their 
eyes and realize how we are treating immigrants in this country. We 
need them to do it now, in this moment, as we are pleading with our 
colleagues to do what is right, to give families a fighting chance to 
beat the virus and put the economy back on track.
  We can't turn a blind eye to the fact that immigrant families will 
likely be excluded from help desperately needed during this pandemic in 
the next COVID-19 package.
  So far, undocumented immigrants who pay their taxes and selflessly 
risk their lives as essential workers to save others have been 
deliberately excluded from the Federal pandemic assistance Congress has 
  Virtually all immigrants who use an individual taxpayer 
identification number--or as we call it, an ITIN--to file their Federal 
taxes under U.S. law, which is totally permissible, and their U.S. 
citizen spouses--U.S. citizen spouses--and children were left out from 
any economic impact payments in the CARES Act.
  In other words, we denied American citizens and their American 
citizen children badly needed assistance as a punishment--as a 
punishment--for being married to an undocumented immigrant or belonging 
to a mixed-status family during this economic emergency
  I grew up believing that an American citizen is an American citizen--
is an American citizen, regardless of whom I marry, regardless of 
whether my children are the offspring of one parent who is an American 
citizen and another one who is not.
  Thousands of American citizens were denied $1,200 individual stimulus 
checks to which other American citizens were entitled to just because 
of who they love. American citizen children were denied $500 in 
assistance to which other American citizen children were entitled. It 
is wrong.
  Are there two classes of American children in this country now? Are 
there two classes of American citizens now?
  As we consider the next COVID-19 relief package, Congress has to fix 
this injustice.
  If you work hard, follow the rules, and pay your taxes, you deserve 
tax relief, regardless of how you filed. At the very least, if you are 
an American citizen living in a mixed-status family or an American 
child who is the offspring of a mixed-status family, you should not be 
denied the cash benefit you are rightfully entitled to. It is just that 
simple. It is justice. It is what is right.
  In the face of this tremendous public health crisis, we should not 
let the insidious, cruel, and relentless scapegoating of immigrants 
prevent us from providing much needed relief to the very same families 
and workers who are helping us survive. All families deserve to be 
treated with dignity. It is the humane thing to do.
  But that is not all. As we expanded access to free COVID-19 testing, 
undocumented immigrants were left behind. Now, that makes no sense. The 
coronavirus doesn't check your status before it infects you.
  An undocumented immigrant living in America with COVID-19 is no less 
a threat to become a seriously ill individual or spread the virus than 
an American citizen who has been infected. The virus does not 
discriminate on race, gender, ethnicity, borders, or legal status. As a 
public health proposition, you want everybody to be tested.
  Given the pandemic's disproportionate impact on low-income and 
communities of color and the fact that those communities of color are 
serving in essential industries, I would argue that they are more 
likely to be infected.
  What good is it to any one of us if someone, regardless of who or 
where they are, is walking around with an undiagnosed case of COVID-19 
because they weren't eligible for a test? That person can unwittingly 
infect their relatives, their neighbors, and their coworkers.
  If we ever want to see our economy and lives return to some semblance 
of normal, there must be access to free COVID-19 testing, treatment, 
and vaccines for everyone living in the United States--everyone living 
in the United States, and that includes regardless of immigration 
  America has to do better to acknowledge the hard work, sacrifice, and 
contribution of immigrants. Sadly, these past 4 years have seen a rise 
in hate crimes and hateful rhetoric targeting immigrants. Led by the 
President, immigrants are continuously scapegoated for every problem.
  One of my Senate colleagues even suggested recently that Hispanics 
were to blame for the rise in COVID cases across our own country, 
instead of the epic failure of the administration to develop and 
implement a national pandemic response plan or one that includes 
culturally competent outreach to minority-majority communities.
  As elected officials and leaders in our communities, we have a moral 
responsibility to rise above the immigrant fearmongering and the 
President's hateful rhetoric to reunite our country. Not only must we 
include immigrant families in the upcoming relief

[[Page S4913]]

package, but to truly address these injustices, we must reform our 
immigration laws once and for all.
  We have to come together as we did before here in the Senate--I was 
part of that Gang of 8--to restart these long overdue discussions and 
find a path forward to achieving real immigration reform.
  I have always believed and still believe that reforming our 
immigration laws is the civil rights issue of this community and of 
this time.
  It is time to treat immigrants fairly and to recognize their hard 
work and contributions to this Nation--immigrants like my mother, 
Evangelina, who came here with nothing but the conviction that 
everything in America was possible. She refused to let not speaking 
English or her modest wages as a seamstress stop her from giving us the 
best life she could.
  And here I am, one of 100 U.S. Senators, in a country of over 320 
million people. I am the embodiment of that American dream, and my 
story is no less meaningful than that of any other immigrant coming to 
this country or in this country to build a better future for their 
family and this Nation.
  That is our past; that is our history; that is our present; and it 
will be our future. It is past time that due acknowledgment and respect 
be given. It is now time for action.
  I yield the floor.
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. SANDERS. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order 
for the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.