The letter notes that among the estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants who are essential workers are approximately 202,500 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and 131,300 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, all immigrants whose work permits and protections from deportation were repeatedly threatened by the previous administration.
“They are providing health care as doctors, nurses, and home health aides, and keeping health care settings safe and open as custodians, food servers, and administrative workers,” the letter said. “They are protecting the nation’s food security, from working on farms and food processing facilities, to working in grocery stores and restaurants. They are first responders, and they are teachers. Undocumented essential workers have stepped up to serve our country in a time of crisis and should be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.”
Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, a letter signatory and former chair of the CHC, had previously called for putting undocumented essential workers on an expedited path to citizenship, which would mirror efforts by other nations, like France, to quickly naturalize immigrant essential workers. “I think that these undocumented immigrants who have been essential workers during this pandemic should be on a fast-track to citizenship, because I think that they have earned it,” Castro told MSNBC’s American Voices with Alicia Menendez last month.
In the U.S., there’s currently no mechanism allowing millions of undocumented immigrants to “get in line” to even begin the naturalization process. Legislators said in the letter that passing legalization through the reconciliation process would ensure both dignity for millions of families, and be a massive economic boon aiding America’s recovery from the pandemic.
“As you continue to work on assembling a COVID-19 reconciliation package and begin work on an economic recovery and jobs package, we urge you to include a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers, Dreamers, and TPS holders, as well as their families, in order to ensure a robust recovery that is inclusive and equitable for all Americans regardless of their immigration status,” they wrote. Hundreds of organizations have also recently called on Congress to act now.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that essential workers, including immigrants, are the backbone of our country and will be the catalyst for our economic recovery,” CHC Chair Raul Ruiz said in a statement. “They have risked their lives to feed America by working in fields and meatpacking facilities, among other critical frontline jobs, to keep us safe and healthy. As Congress works on the next COVID-19 economic recovery package, it is critical to include these essential workers to ensure our country gets back on track as quickly as possible.”