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Lawmakers, advisers call on Biden to give legal status to undocumented caregivers

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With President Biden moving to provide legal status for some undocumented immigrants, some Democratic lawmakers, advisers to the White House and advocacy groups are calling on him to expand work permits to certain long-settled immigrant caregivers. 

They're asking the administration to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for work permits if they've lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years, passed criminal background checks and have a U.S. citizen or legal resident who would face serious hardship if their caregiver were deported. If enacted, it could affect thousands who have been living in the U.S., according to the advoacy group The Immigration Hub. 

They would also like to see a pathway to legal status for parents of children who are U.S. citizens and who have a disability and would face dire consequences if their parental caregiver were deported.

Mirtha Arriaga, who is on the board of directors for "American Families United," one of the groups involved in the effort, is a mother of five in California who said she constantly worries about the possible deportation of her husband, who is from Mexico.

  Mirtha Arriaga with her family. Courtensy of Mirtha Arriaga

Three of her five children were diagnosed with autism, are nonverbal and suffer from learning disabilities. Their health needs forced Arriaga to quit her job so she's able to care for them at home. Her husband provides their family's sole income, but he is an undocumented immigrant.

"It's really hard to live with the daily fear that at any moment my husband can be deported," Arriaga said. "My children can't look out for themselves. They need us."

She said she loses sleep over the possibility of his deportation. "It's a feeling I don't wish upon anyone," she said.

The informal coalition of advocates, which includes Reps. Nanette Barragan, Joaquin Castro and Barbara Lee, has been calling for relief for caregivers for several months. And they argue that it could also help boost Mr. Biden's reelection campaign by helping this critical segment of voters, including Latinos.  

"It's a clear signal to Latinos, immigrants and your base voters that you have an affirmative vision on immigration," said Lorella Praeli, co-president of Community Change and Community Change Action. "You're not just extending Donald Trump's policies at the border, but you have an affirmative vision and that helps to clarify who you are to voters on the issue of immigration." 

In at least one battleground state where the Latino vote could be decisive, there's been a broad interest in extending legal status to undocumented immigrants who have been longtime residents. Nevada Latino Legislative Caucus and the AANHPI Nevada Legislative Caucus sent a letter to Mr. Biden on June 13, emphasizing the critical role immigrants play in Nevada's communities and economy and highlighting their contributions. 

"In the absence of congressional action to deliver immigration reform legislation, hundreds of thousands of immigrant families, including Dreamers and essential undocumented workers who have contributed for years to our local communities and economy continue to live with the fear of deportation," reads the letter obtained by CBS News.  

According to polling in battleground states by The Immigration Hub, 74% of voters support administrative actions that would allow as many as 1.6 million long-settled immigrants to continue working and contributing to their families and the nation's economy. 

"Most Americans want people to be able to contribute and pay taxes, especially if they've lived here for 10 years," said Kerri Talbot, executive director of the Immigration Hub. "Unfortunately, it's so hard for people to be able to get work permits, but these are really, really sympathetic cases of people who've been contributing for a long time." 

The ongoing discussions to expand protections to this group of undocumented immigrants come as President Biden announced earlier this week an expansion of legal status for unauthorized immigrants married to U.S. citizens if they have lived in the country for at least a decade.

Mr. Biden also announced executive action that will streamline the process for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children — known as "Dreamers" — and other undocumented immigrants to request waivers to make it easier to obtain temporary visas, such as H-1B visas for high-skilled workers. 

"What we've seen are the Republican-led states bring forth a challenge to these kinds of actions done by the executive branch, but the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have full legal authority to expand access to this kind of relief," Praeli said.

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