FWD.us Statement on the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act

WASHINGTON, DC— This week, Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Alex Padilla (CA) introduced the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would provide an urgently-needed pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers who are keeping Americans safe and healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. Representatives Joaquín Castro (TX) and Ted Lieu (CA) are expected to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives. 

FWD.us President Todd Schulte issued the following statement:

“We applaud Senators Padilla and Warren and Representatives Castro and Lieu for introducing legislation that would provide permanent protection from deportation to roughly 7.5 million undocumented immigrants, including more than five million undocumented essential workers and their undocumented family members covered by the bill. They have made extraordinary sacrifices for our country during the pandemic and these courageous members of our communities deserve the safety, certainty, and protection provided by citizenship. People deserve citizenship not only because they are essential workers, but because it is simply unacceptable to call someone’s work ‘essential’ and not provide them legal status and certainty.

“The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would be a tremendous step forward for our country’s public health and economic recovery. It’s long past time to fix our immigration system, keeping families together and ensuring vital members of our communities and economy are able to fully contribute to the response and recovery from COVID-19. No bill is perfect, however, and we urge lawmakers not to further exclude people due to a criminal conviction. Lawmakers must act quickly and prioritize a pathway to citizenship for all immigrant essential workers in the second COVID-19 recovery package.”

The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would create a well-deserved pathway to citizenship for roughly 7.5 million undocumented immigrants living in and contributing to the U.S. This includes more than five million undocumented essential workers and their more than two million undocumented family members covered by the bill. It would also extend the opportunity to adjust to permanent status to undocumented immigrants who lost a child, spouse, or parent that was an essential worker, to COVID-19.

Immigrants represent a substantial and critical part of America’s essential COVID-19 workforce, combating the deadly coronavirus pandemic and helping our communities recover from this crisis. They comprise nearly 1 in 5 individuals in the total U.S. essential workforce, totaling almost 23 million people. More than five million are undocumented people who continue to face the daily risk of deportation.

Across the country, more than 8 million U.S. citizens live with an immediate family member who is undocumented. They are parents to roughly 4.1 million U.S. citizen children and have spent decades building their lives and families here.

People across America have seen first hand the vital role of immigrants in helping our communities survive the pandemic, and they overwhelmingly support legal status for these frontline responders. In some major metropolitan cities—including in Florida, Texas and California, where COVID-19 hit especially hard—undocumented immigrants make up more than 10% of the total essential workforce.

In February, 60 economists penned a letter to President Biden, urging him to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals in the forthcoming economic recovery and jobs plan. The letter highlighted the need for stability and legal protection, saying that “such a policy would increase wages and productivity throughout the U.S. economy.”

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