Castro, Warren urge Biden to include immigration legislation in infrastructure plan

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Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are among 22 members of Congress urging Biden to include a pathway to citizenship in his major infrastructure plan and legislative package, the American Families Plan. 

The lawmakers penned a letter Wednesday pushing Biden to include H.R. 1909 and S. 747 into his legislative package. Both bills would offer a pathway to U.S. citizenship for undocumented essential workers, 

“Over 5 million of these workers are undocumented immigrants,” lawmakers wrote, “they are among the farmworkers, meatpackers, nurses, janitors, construction workers, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, restaurant cooks, domestic workers, home health care aides, emergency first responders, and so many others who have stepped up for our nation during this unprecedented crisis.” 

“Essential workers also paid a terrible toll this past year,” they continued. “They are unable to work from home, often live in crowded conditions with their families, work in industries with unsafe conditions, and earn poverty-level wages.”

Roughly two-thirds of all undocumented immigrants work in frontline jobs at essential industries. The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would allow undocumented Americans working in those industries to apply for legal permanent resident status. The legislation would also repeal the three and ten-year bars for re-entry; a provision in U.S. law that prevents immigrants from obtaining permanent residence if they entered the country without a green card.

A pathway to citizenship for many of these essential workers would be critical in “building back” the economy, lawmakers said. 

In a statement, Congressman Castro said the pandemic has shown how America’s critical infrastructure can collapse without hardworking immigrants. “In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed essential workers as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure,” Castro said.

“As we seek to build back better, it is crucial that our economy and society be rebuilt on a fairer foundation that fully includes immigrant essential workers,” he said.

Freshman Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Senate version of the bill last month along with Congressman Castro, who introduced the House version. The bill is co-sponsored by nine Senators so far, including Warren, Sens. Cory Brooker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY).

In January, at least 100 lawmakers led by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to offer a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers in the House COVID relief package, but it was ultimately not included in the $1.9 trillion relief bill that passed both chambers in March.

Photos: Scott Eisen/Getty Images and Jacquelyn Martin – Pool/Getty Images

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