Posted on February 12, 2021

Meet the 7 Congresswomen Who Are Steering Biden’s Immigration Agenda in the House

Rebecca Morin, USA Today, January 29, 2021

In one of her first days in Congress nearly two decades ago, Rep. Linda Sánchez remembers being told by a friend on Capitol Hill that there are two types of lawmakers: a workhorse or a showhorse.

Sánchez said she’s the kind of lawmaker who wants to get things done.

Now, the California congresswoman has taken the lead in putting together a group of seven women, who she described as “workhorses,” who will shepherd the legislative efforts to get President Joe Biden’s immigration reform bill through the House of Representatives.

“I can unequivocally say that every woman that is part of this ‘Closers’ group is a workhorse,” Sánchez said in an interview with USA TODAY. “They’re not doing it for the glory or for the credit. They are in it to get (immigration reform) done once and for all. It’s long overdue.”

Biden has called for an eight-year pathway to citizenship for the nearly 11 million immigrants living in the United States without legal status, a shorter process to legal status for agriculture workers and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and an enforcement plan that includes deploying technology to patrol the border.

While they are in the early stages of putting together their legislative strategy on the immigration plan, the seven congresswomen will likely become the face of the bill in the House, as they continue to work closely with the White House to pass the first comprehensive immigration reform legislation in more than 30 years.

The group, who call themselves the ‘Closers,’ includes Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., Judy Chu, D-Calif., Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., and Karen Bass, D-Calif.

Sánchez, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ Immigration Task Force, said she chose this group of congresswomen because of their past work on immigration, in addition to several of the congresswomen serving districts that have large migrant communities.

For example, Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican American woman to be elected to Congress, represents California’s 40th Congressional District, which is home to the highest DACA-eligible population in the United States. Chu, whose district covers parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, has worked frequently on immigration issues, with a focus on Asian and Pacific Islander migrants.

The group has representatives from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

“They are women that sort of reach … all four corners of the caucus,” Sánchez said. {snip}

Bass and Clarke, who is a daughter of Jamaican immigrants, have frequently worked on immigration through the CBC.

“I have seen glaring inequities and civil rights violations, and I will not relent until our immigration system reflects a modern and equitable approach to this issue. Reversing the policies of the last four years is not enough,” Clarke said in a statement.

Passing immigration reform will be a challenge. And the group of lawmakers may try to push through legislation that already passed in the House such as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act and the No Ban Act in addition to Biden’s immigration reform plans, Chu told USA TODAY. There are also talks that comprehensive immigration reform legislation may be broken up into several bills rather than one large bill.

The Farm Workforce Modernization Act creates a pathway to legalization for agricultural or farm workers, as well as reforms the existing visa program for agriculture workers, known as the H-2A visa. The No Ban Act would prohibit religious discrimination in visa applications, as well as revoke Trump’s travel ban. Biden has already rolled back the former president’s travel ban from several Muslim-majority countries.

Biden has included aspects of these bills in his own legislative package.


Sánchez said she has been in contact with the White House and is working with them on legislation, as well as with Sen. Bob Menendez, who is leading Biden’s immigration reform in the Senate.

But the California congresswoman also acknowledged that the group of ‘Closers’ will also have to get Republicans and more moderate members on board to come up with legislation that can pass in both chambers of the house. {snip}

Sánchez said the members will reach out to hear the fear and concerns from not only members of Congress, but of activist groups.