ROUNDUP: Senate Subcommittee Hearing Energizes Advocates for Legalizing Immigrant Essential Workers This Year
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety held a hearing, chaired by Sen. Alex Padilla titled “The Essential Role of Immigrant Workers in America.” In response to this unofficial kick off of the next stage of the immigration debate, immigration advocacy organizations released statements highlighting the important roles immigrants play in our economy as essential workers and especially during national challenges, like the unprecedented pandemic. The hearing underscored why providing them a pathway to citizenship would not only be the right thing to do for them and their families, but also our country.
Read key excerpts from the statements below:
We Are Home Campaign:
This is our opening salvo in a renewed push to make legalization and citizenship a reality for essential workers in the next 100 days — including DACA, TPS, and Farmworkers. They are the backbone of key sectors in our economy and valuable contributors to our nation. With the support of the majority of the American public, and the collective power of our movement, we will work with Democrats to ensure that we legalize as many people as possible after decades of inaction.
We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Padilla, Senator Menendez, Sen. Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and other Democrats who are working to advance this goal. Unlike what the Republicans may lead you to believe, the moment is now. There is a legislative path for immigration reform either through reconciliation or through the Dream and Promise Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. We are ready to make sure our essential workers are able to live their lives with dignity and free from fear, and to that end we will hold both Democrats and Republicans accountable.
National Immigration Forum:
Immigrant workers make up 17.4 percent of the labor force in the United States, and they have played a crucial role amid the pandemic. Across numerous sectors, immigrants are doing essential work on the front lines fighting Covid-19 and keeping the nation safe. Immigrants—faithful to their entrepreneurial spirit—have kept our country fed, healthy, and moving forward thanks to their work in health care, food supply, transportation, and other vital jobs.
The Forum believes that if our economy is to recover from the setbacks Covid-19 presented, we need immigrant workers operating at full steam. Hence, we urge Congress to pass immigration reforms to deal with the existence of the millions of people already living and working in the United States, many of whom are essential workers standing alongside American-born workers to help with Covid-19 response and recovery. The Forum endorses legislation that would allow essential workers—such as agricultural and health care workers—to earn permanent resident status and the possibility of citizenship.
National Immigration Law Center:
Today’s hearing is an important step forward, as we continue to urge Congress to seize this critical moment and provide a long overdue pathway to citizenship for essential workers, immigrant youth, people with temporary protected status, and, eventually, all undocumented immigrants in the U.S. As we move into a recovery from COVID and build back our nation, we must recognize that there is no recovery without immigrants.
Church World Service:
For far too long, Dreamers, farm workers, TPS holders and many more immigrant workers have waited for Congress to deliver an opportunity to pass a meaningful, permanent solution that provides a path to citizenship. CWS joins nearly 1,000 faith organizations, faith leaders, and people of faith urging the Biden administration to include a pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers, farmworkers, people with DACA, TPS, and DED, and their families in the upcoming recovery packages prioritized through reconciliation […]. CWS urges the Biden administration and Congress to secure a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, including essential workers, immediately.
More than five million undocumented essential workers have risked their health and lives throughout the pandemic to keep the country from completely collapsing. They take care of our kids and elderly, keep our hospitals and public spaces clean, and they are the workers–in the fields and grocery store aisles–who are responsible for feeding the nation. Congress has the ability to create this path and use any and all vehicles available to make it a reality–including via reconciliation. Denying them a pathway to citizenship is irresponsible and cruel.
Make the Road:
The country’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic depends on Congress advancing legislation that delivers on its promise of long overdue relief to millions of DACA recipients, TPS holders and undocumented essential workers. With broad support across the country, Congress must deliver a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants as part of the reconciliation process. Before and throughout the pandemic immigrant essential workers put their life on the line to keep our communities safe and sustain our economy. It is time Congress values their work, honors their sacrifices, and recognizes their contributions by keeping them safe from deportation and separation from their families. To Build Back Better, Congress must take decisive action to move forward a path to citizenship for essential workers by passing the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act without any harmful provisions that criminalize our people.
CHIRLA (Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights):
Undocumented immigrants are workers, taxpayers, consumers, entrepreneurs and neighbors, fueling our economic growth as a nation at every step. Year after year, they add trillions of dollars to our GDP and contribute to federal, state and local coffers with their taxes.
But during this past year, they have done even more: they have kept us safe even as they risked their own health to keep the country running. Some of them have even lost their lives in that effort. This bill would look after their families.
The least we can do as a nation is to see that sacrifice, acknowledge it, and reward them with the path to citizenship so many of them have sought for decades. They have our gratitude, but they deserve more: they must have the legalization that will allow them to keep contributing to this nation, now in the full sunlight of a fairer system–not in the shadow of fear and deportation.
United We Dream:
Over five million undocumented people continue to put their lives on the line to keep our communities and families healthy, fed, and safe amidst the pandemic. Despite facing increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, millions of undocumented people remain excluded from federal relief and recovery efforts, and in several cases have been denied vaccines in states like Florida and Texas because of their immigration status.
With immigration status being one of the most significant barriers preventing communities from fully recovering from COVID-19, passing a pathway to citizenship for essential workers, immigrant youth, TPS holders, and farm workers is relief. Until all undocumented communities are protected permanently, we will not fully recover. Senate Democrats must do everything in their power to act swiftly to deliver a pathway to citizenship for millions now! This includes adding a pathway to citizenship for millions in the American Jobs Package and moving it through the budget reconciliation process.
Center for American Progress:
Providing these essential workers with permanent legal status will allow them to realize their full potential, to realize their American dreams. This is not only part of a just, inclusive, and robust post-pandemic economic recovery for all Americans, but can be done without increasing undocumented immigration to the U.S. Immigrant essential workers who lack permanent legal status deserve more than our recognition and our praise; they have earned a pathway to citizenship. They have kept us fed by working in our nation’s food supply chain. Workers deemed essential today should not live with the uncertainty and fear of deportation tomorrow.
With each day that goes by without meaningful immigration reform the fear of deportation or separation due to immigration status sits as an added burden on the shoulders of millions of immigrant essential workers and their families. Indeed, immigrant essential workers who lack permanent legal status have earned a pathway to citizenship. A pathway to citizenship for these workers is crucial not only for just keeping families together, but also for an inclusive and robust post-pandemic rebuilding of America.
Immigrant workers are essential workers and it’s time our country values their work, sacrifices, and contributions by providing a path to citizenship. We cannot continue to simultaneously treat essential workers as both essential and deportable.
In his short time in the Senate, Sen. Padilla has taken an important leadership role on immigration and as Chair of the Immigration Subcommittee. Today’s hearing marks a new phase in the debate that underscores Democrats’ consensus that this is the year to finally achieve a popular breakthrough on citizenship and for Democrats to use their majority to change lives, strengthen the country and engage America’s immigrants fully in our recovery from COVID-19 and our recovery from the Trump years.
We Are Home is a nationwide campaign to fight for immigrant communities on three fronts: prioritizing and demanding a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America; a moratorium and overhaul of interior enforcement; and broad affirmative relief from deportation. We Are Home is co-chaired by Community Change/Community Change Action; National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)/Care in Action; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Farm Workers/UFW Foundation; and United We Dream.