May 03, 2023

Castro, Lieu Renew Push for Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers

WASHINGTON – This week, Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Ted Lieu (CA-36) reintroduced the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for the essential workers and families who worked to keep Americans healthy, safe, and fed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senators Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“During the worst days of the pandemic, millions of undocumented immigrants risked their lives to keep hospitals clean, shelves stocked, and small businesses afloat. As Americans continue to mourn our friends, neighbors, and loved ones who lost their lives to COVID-19, we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to those who kept our country going,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “We cannot allow yesterday’s heroes to face deportation tomorrow. I’m proud to join Congressman Lieu and Senators Padilla and Warren to introduce the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which will give the heroes of the pandemic the path to citizenship they have earned.”

"During the Covid-19 public health emergency, we saw firsthand how vital essential workers were to keeping our country going,” said Congressman Ted Lieu. “In those scary times, they risked their lives going into work in order to care for sick people, process food and otherwise ensure that many of the public’s needs were met. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their work and patriotism in caring for our communities. That is why I am pleased to once again partner with Congressman Castro on the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act. This legislation provides an expedited pathway to lawful permanent resident status and eventual U.S. citizenship for over 5 million undocumented essential workers who were a critical part of the COVID-19 response. I urge my colleagues to support this bill. 

“Every day, over five million essential workers without permanent legal status kept Americans healthy, fed, and safe during the COVID pandemic—all while risking their own health and the health of their families,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “As the federal COVID-19 public health emergency comes to an end next month, this country continues to grapple with the long-term effects of the pandemic and we can’t forget the sacrifices these workers made—and still make every single day—for our country. Our essential workers have more than earned their place in this country and it’s time to create a fast, accessible, and secure path to citizenship for frontline workers.”

“Essential workers have been critical to helping our country get through the darkest days of the pandemic and risked their lives to help keep our country running – yet about 5 million of them still live in fear of deportation,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act recognizes all that essential workers have given and will create a fair and accessible pathway to citizenship.”

“If you feed America, you deserve the right to stay in America,” said Teresa Romero, president of the United Farm Workers “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrant farm workers put themselves and their families at risk to keep America fed. They went to work in the fields, farms, dairies, canneries, and orchards of America while others got to stay safe at home. Many got sick. Some died. You can’t pick a tomato over Zoom. A pathway to citizenship is the bare minimum that our country owes to the immigrant essential workers who keep it fed every day. The United Farm Workers proudly support this legislation to do right by America’s essential workers and immigrant heroes.”

The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would provide undocumented essential workers with a fast, accessible, and secure path to citizenship, beginning with immediate adjustment of status to legal permanent resident. Approximately three out of four undocumented workers in the United States are working in jobs that were designated essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. This legislation is a critical part of a just and inclusive COVID-19 recovery.

A fact sheet on the bill is available here.

The bill text is available here.

The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act is endorsed by: Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, United Farm Workers, FWD.US, Church World Service, National Partnership for New Americans, Justice for Migrant Women, Nigerian Center, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services Inc., Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Immigration Hub, Central American Resource Center of Northern California (CARECEN SF), Hartford Deportation Defense, National Immigration Project, Cleveland Jobs with Justice, America’s Voice, Oxfam America, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Bridges Faith Initiative, Freedom Network USA, National Young Farmers Coalition, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and UnidosUS.