ATLANTA, GA – As Congress discusses another COVID-19 relief package, broad immigration reform legislation, and a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, among other crucial pieces of legislation, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), FWD.us, and the Latino Community Fund of Georgia yesterday held a virtual panel event to discuss just how essential immigrants are to America’s pandemic response and economic recovery.
Nearly one in five essential workers in the United States is an immigrant. More than 5 million are undocumented, including 170,000 in the state of Georgia. There is no successful economic or public health recovery without Congress providing a pathway to citizenship for these essential workers, who have kept all Americans safe and healthy at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
“Due to the shortcomings of our immigration system, many of America’s 23 million immigrant essential workers who have risked their health and safety for the country over the past decades, but particularly this past year, have not yet been provided with the support they need,” said U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (GA-04) during the event. “For far too long, the immigration system in the United States has failed to provide a fair and humane process for immigrants who contribute so much to our country to continue doing so without fear and uncertainty. There are more than 170,000 undocumented essential workers in Georgia alone contributing to our health care, education, transportation, and food supply infrastructure — they deserve our recognition. I will continue to advocate for a pathway to citizenship for these hard working members of our communities and their families.”
Congressman Johnson was joined on the panel by Gigi Pedraza, executive director of the Latino Community Fund of Georgia; Erick Juarez, a medical student at Augusta Medical College; and panel moderator Samuel Aguilar, Georgia State Immigration Director for FWD.us. Comments from all participants can be found below:
Samuel Aguilar, Georgia State Immigration Director, FWD.us: “Georgia’s growing immigrant community continues to make me proud and this panel only elevated the respect I have for the millions of immigrants working essential roles each day. I am thankful to have leaders like Congressman Johnson fighting for a better path forward in Washington for our nation’s immigrants, who are playing an outsized role in our pandemic response yet and who are crucial to our recovery, yet are not treated or recognized as such. I urge Congress to work to provide a pathway to citizenship for our nation’s undocumented community, including Dreamers, as soon as possible.”
Erick Juarez, Medical Student, Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University: “As the child of immigrant farmworkers in Georgia, I grew up surrounded by hardworking immigrants who were committed to building and bettering their communities. This commitment is a value passed to me from my parents, and it inspired me to pursue my Harvard education and post-graduate medical career. I’m looking forward to serving the people of Georgia after finishing medical school, just as my parents and siblings serve Georgia’s communities. Immigrants are crucial to our country and its success, and it’s past due time that legislative action recognize this.”
Gigi Pedraza, Executive Director, Latino Community Fund of Georgia: “The Latino Community Fund of Georgia works with immigrants of all backgrounds across the state of Georgia and I have seen time and time again the tremendous work immigrants have done throughout the pandemic. For many of them, to be excluded from relief efforts and basic benefits afforded to all Georgians is inexcusable. I was proud to highlight their efforts on this panel and I’m hopeful Congress will act quickly to fix the system that led to these inequities and provide our nation’s undocumented population with a pathway to citizenship.”