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“With Thanks from a Grateful Nation” It’s Time to Create Pathways to Citizenship for Essential Workers

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The following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, responding to the introduction of the “Citizenship for Essential Workers Act,” new legislation introduced by Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Ted Lieu (D-CA) and others in the House, and Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in the Senate.

It’s time for America to deliver a road to citizenship for essential undocumented workers. It’s time for Democrats to use their majority to deliver on long overdue and needed breakthroughs on immigration and other priorities. It’s time for the nation to move beyond the demonization of immigrants by the GOP and extend citizenship to those who risk their lives on behalf of all Americans.

During this pandemic, we all have become more aware of the key role immigrants play in helping feed, care for, and protect America. And yet, our government designates these workers as both essential and deportable. This is reprehensible. The way to set things right is to enact the proposed legislation.

As Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan wrote last spring, ‘you have seen who’s delivering the food, stocking the shelves, running the hospital ward, holding your hand when you’re on the ventilator. It is the newest Americans, immigrants, and some are here illegally. They worked through an epidemic and kept America going.’ 

Noonan wrote that we should extend an offer of citizenship to these workers, ‘With a note printed on top: ‘With thanks from a grateful nation.’


  • A December 2020 report from FWD.us found that more than 5 million of those designated as “essential workers” are undocumented. As the Center for American Progress wrote, “millions of these immigrants have worked alongside their neighbors to keep the country functioning and safe … After decades of taking these jobs for granted, the country has come to realize just how essential these individuals and their contributions are.” 
  • As a research summary from New American Economy notes, immigrants make up huge numbers of essential workers fighting to keep us safe during this once in a century pandemic: “Immigrants are fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis in a variety of essential occupations … Today, immigrants make up nearly one-third of psychiatrists and more than a quarter of America’s physicians … Immigrants make up more than 1 in 5 Food Sector Workers, including 28.7% of Food Processing Workers, 27.6% of Agriculture Workers, 18.2% of Food Delivery Workers, and 16.6% of Grocery and Supermarket Workers. Overall, immigrant workers disproportionately serve in the riskiest jobs.”