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“They Have Stepped Up for America. It’s Time for Us to Step Up for Them”

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A Grateful Nation Should Deliver Citizenship for Undocumented Essential Workers 


A new letter from House and Senate Democrats calls on President Biden to “prioritize legislation that would offer a pathway to citizenship to undocumented essential workers in the second part of his two-part infrastructure package set to address education and childcare,” as CNN described. The letter, organized led by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Ted Lieu (D-CA), states in part:

We write to urge you to prioritize the inclusion of H.R. 1909 / S. 747, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrant essential workers, as part of the American Families Plan and your legislative package on jobs and infrastructure.

For the past year, essential workers have further proven themselves to be a truly important part of our nation’s critical infrastructure and crucial part of the backbone of our society. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security even designated essential workers as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure. These workers have kept America fed, healthy, and safe throughout this pandemic, and they will be just as essential to our nation’s economic recovery. Over 5 million of these workers are undocumented immigrants – they are among the farmworkers, meatpackers, nurses, janitors, construction workers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, restaurant cooks, domestic workers, home health care aides, emergency first responders, and so many others who have stepped up for our nation during this unprecedented crisis.

…Essential workers are American heroes — and they have earned the right to become American citizens. They have stepped up for America. It’s time for us to step up for them.

Meanwhile, a new editorial from the Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, calls on state lawmakers to step up to support “forgotten” undocumented essential workers, noting in part: 

These immigrants did the essential work when it was needed most. They were on the front lines at stores and restaurants and construction sites and hospitals, and their labor helped save lives while most of us sheltered in place, while facing exposure, illness, and indifference for their sacrifice if they got sick, lost their jobs, or lost their lives.

A March editorial from the Star-Ledger focused on Congress and hit similar themes, noting: 

Unless you’re blinded by an ill-fitting mask, it wasn’t hard to recognize the impact of immigrants on our lives during the past year … It took a pandemic for us to acknowledge that they are essential, and the vast majority of Americans believe it’s payback time … as not only an affirmation of this country’s humanity, but as an economic imperative.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

Democrats can and should use every ounce of their political power to deliver long overdue breakthroughs on citizenship bills that legalize millions. Currently, undocumented workers are deemed by the federal government to be both essential and deportable. That is not right. Those who have been essential to our response to the pandemic will be essential to our nation’s recovery. These hardworking men and women are an indispensable part of our critical infrastructure and our character as a nation. It’s time to show our thanks by delivering citizenship from a grateful nation to those who have risked their lives on behalf of all of us.