Spain’s Unidas Podemos party pushes for sweeping migrant regularization

The junior partner in the coalition government has little support for the move, which would also grant citizenship to foreign workers who provided essential services during the Covid-19 lockdown

Pablo Echenique, the congressional spokesperson for Unidas Podemos.
Pablo Echenique, the congressional spokesperson for Unidas Podemos.EFE

Spain’s Unidas Podemos, which is the junior partner in a governing coalition led by the Socialist Party (PSOE), wants to grant legal status to over 600,000 undocumented migrants and asylum seekers in the country.

The leftist group made the proposal on Wednesday in Congress, arguing that all foreign nationals who were in Spain when the government decreed a state of alarm, on March 14, should be eligible for regularization. Unidas Podemos also wants to grant Spanish citizenship to migrants who performed essential work during the coronavirus health emergency.

Podemos has calculated that there are around 600,000 people, including undocumented migrants and asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their case, who could benefit from the move to grant them legal residency papers. But the party did not provide an estimate on how many individuals might be eligible for Spanish citizenship on the basis of their work against Covid-19.

Echenique said the regularization could be positive from a health, economic and social point of view

The congressional spokesperson for Unidas Podemos, Pablo Echenique, has admitted that the PSOE does not share their position on this matter, but said that his group wants to start a debate with other parties in parliament and to consider alternatives. Echenique also foresaw difficulties convincing center-right groups such as the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Citizens), not to mention the far-right Vox, but said that it was a matter of justice.

The “proposal for granting citizenship to the heroes of Covid-19” is based on the decree that introduced a state of alarm in Spain, and which provided a list of services that were considered essential during the prolonged lockdown. These services included caring for the elderly, ensuring access to food products, passenger transportation, cleaning and disinfection activities, water and electricity supply, telecommunications, citizen safety, border transit and legal advice. Podemos is proposing an automatic naturalization channel for foreign citizens who were authorized to be in Spain and engaged in these activities during the confinement period.

This is the second time in two weeks that Unidas Podemos has put forward a proposal to grant legal status to unauthorized migrants in Spain. On June 26, it joined a group of regional and leftist parties who introduced a non-binding motion in Congress urging the government to conduct an urgent, permanent and unconditional regularization drive. The PSOE ruled out such a move, despite similar initiatives to regularize foreign workers in Italy and Portugal.

Echenique said the regularization could be positive from a health, economic and social point of view. He cited a study by Carlos III University and the PorCausa Foundation that estimated that newly regularized, working migrants would contribute €1.5 billion a year in income taxes, social security contributions and savings in unemployment benefits.

English version by Susana Urra.

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