NILC Statement on the Essential Role of Immigrant Workers

May 12, 2021

Juan Gastelum, [email protected], 213-375-3149

NILC Statement on the Essential Role of Immigrant Workers

WASHINGTON — Immigrant workers, experts, and advocates testified at a hearing before a key U.S. Senate subcommittee today highlighting the experiences of immigrant essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and pending legislation to provide them a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

The hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety — chaired by Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) — featured Rose Tilus, a Haitian nurse in Rhode Island with temporary protected status, who spoke about her experience caring for COVID-19 patients and contracting the virus. Witnesses also highlighted the contributions of farmworkers and other essential workers in industries heavily staffed by immigrants.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Immigrants are essential to our communities, economy, and our nation. Nearly three quarters of all immigrants in the U.S. workforce — including more than 5 million who are undocumented — are working in essential roles and helping us get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Whether caring for our most vulnerable, teaching our kids, rebuilding after climate disasters, or keeping us fed, millions of immigrants are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk for all of us. We have applauded these courageous workers for keeping our country running in the midst of a global public health and economic crisis, but that’s not enough. We must recognize immigrant essential workers under the law and put them on a pathway to U.S. citizenship as part of our relief and recovery efforts.

“Courageous workers like Rose should have the certainty that they will not be separated from their loved ones and the communities and country they call home because of their immigration status. We thank Senator Padilla for shining a light on their experiences and contributions, and for his leadership on the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which provides a permanent solution.

“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.”