On Federal Legislation Creating a Path to Citizenship for Frontline Immigrant Workers

The following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, on the introduction of the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act:

“The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act is a testament to the movement for immigrant rights, and an opportunity to recognize that the well-being of one is connected to the well-being of all. By establishing a path to citizenship for more than five million immigrant workers in frontline industries, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would help pave the way to a stronger COVID-19 recovery, good jobs with increased pay and improved conditions for all workers, and a more inclusive society.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated deep inequities in this country. Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and AAPI communities, including immigrants, have disproportionately suffered the health, economic, emotional, and even xenophobic impacts of an inadequate pandemic response. Millions of undocumented workers have been forced to work in unprotected and often dangerous conditions to provide food, transportation, care, cleaning services, and more, which has kept communities and economies going. And while everyone who cannot work from home has had to face the threat of the deadly virus, undocumented workers’ status has only heightened COVID-19 exposure for individuals, their families, and communities.

“Undocumented workers know that organizing and demanding better conditions comes with a high risk of employer retaliation. Employers routinely silence workers by retaliating or threatening to retaliate against them on the basis of their immigration status. Recent NELP reports show that workers are, in fact, witnessing high levels of retaliation when raising concerns about the safety of their workplaces. Workers are also filing high numbers of retaliation complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It is no surprise that workers in industries with high numbers of immigrant workers, such as meat and poultry processing, have experienced egregious disregard for their safety and high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths to match.

“Ultimately, as we invest in our COVID-19 recovery, we have an opportunity to build a more just, inclusive, and prosperous future by centering the needs of Black, immigrant workers. To succeed, we must ensure that all workers can work, organize, and exercise their rights without fear tied to immigration status. This bill is a step in that direction.”


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