Bills Introduced that Expedite Permanent Citizenship for Essential Workers During COVID-19

Legislation | May 03, 2021 | by Andrea Price-Carter

A bicameral proposal, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act which would allow undocumented persons working as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic to be eligible for a path to citizenship, has been introduced. The legislation (S. 747 and H.R. 1909) proposes that these workers receive permanent resident status.

A bicameral proposal, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act which would allow undocumented persons working as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic to be eligible for a path to citizenship, has been introduced. The legislation (S. 747 and H.R. 1909) proposes that these workers receive permanent resident status. Individuals eligible for the adjustment of status under the legislation include those working in the nonprofit sector, or health care occupations, including home health care and residential care and home and community based services (HCBS).

This legislation seeks to provide a “fair, secure, and accessible” pathway to U.S. citizenship for over 5 million immigrant essential workers. Of the 5 million, around 1 million would be defined as “Dreamers” that are holding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The other 4 million undocumented essential workers largely lack any protection from deportation, meaning a worker could be deemed essential today, but they could be deported tomorrow.

The primary sponsors of the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), also initiated a letter urging the Biden administration to allow undocumented persons working as essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and certain family members of such persons to adjust to permanent resident status to a part of the American Families Plan and a forthcoming legislative package on jobs and infrastructure. Full letter text is available here.

LeadingAge continues to work on efforts to ask members of Congress to sponsor legislation that creates a new visa category to address our workforce challenges in long-term care, as identified in the International Migration of Aging and Geriatric Workers in Response to the Needs of Elders (IMAGINE) Initiative. IMAGINE offers a path forward for policymakers that lays out recommendations pursuable alone or as a package, which make changes to the current immigration laws and allows aging services providers to fill available positions.

Additionally, the House of Representatives has passed two pieces of historic legislation that would grant legal status to undocumented individuals, the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603). In the coming weeks, the House Judiciary Committee will work towards advancing a comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation, the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 (H.R. 1177) – President Biden’s immigration plan that establishes a new system to responsibly manage and secure our border, manage migration across the hemisphere and modernize our immigration system.