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The Hispanic Caucus, Chaired by Rep. Raul Ruiz, is leading the call for greater protections for essential workers. Photo: Getty Images
The Hispanic Caucus, Chaired by Rep. Raul Ruiz, is leading the call for greater protections for essential workers. Photo: Getty Images

Hispanic Caucus leads push to include undocumented immigrants in COVID relief

More than 100 lawmakers urge for the COVID-19 package to include undocumented immigrant workers.

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The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) is taking the lead in the push to include legal protections for undocumented essential workers in an upcoming COVID-19 relief reconciliation package. 

The CHC is part of 100 members of Congress who are calling for the inclusion of immigrant essential workers, Dreamers, DACA recipients, and those with Temporary Protected Status in the upcoming package, arguing that many are essential workers who have helped keep the country on its feet, and are critical for recovery.

House Dems are proceeding with the COVID relief package, which has yet to be approved by the Speaker or Majority lead. The bill could require them to use “reconciliation” to advance it in the Senate without Republican support. 

CHC members, progressive Dems, and immigrant advocates having been saying immigration reform is a top priority — after the pandemic — and the reconciliation package could be the time to do it, while also remaining inclusive of essential workers. 

Immigrants rights organizations and more than 100 advocacy groups in the We Are Home campaign have pushed lawmakers to act on their inclusion in the upcoming bill, but there is still no word on Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader’s pending actions. 

“An estimated five million undocumented immigrants, including 202,500 DACA recipients and 131,300 TPS holders, are serving our country every day as essential workers,” reads the letter to Pelosi and Schumer.

If they don’t include the measures outlined in their letter, it will likely raise criticism that House leadership and the Biden administration has not acted on immigration in the “sweeping” way it has promised for months. 

President Biden has promised to pass a comprehensive immigration bill — marking it as a top priority, as well as further measures throughout his first 100 days in office. So far, the bulk of his executive orders have been reversals to four years prior. 

The calls to include essential undocmented workers in covid relief talks would not only be a win for immigration advocates, who argue it would also be a win for the U.S. economy in the long run. 

“The inclusion of protections and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers and their families would  boost economic output and increase average wages for all workers, while playing an important role in addressing the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on communities of Color,” the letter continues. 

Even if House leadership fails to accept the demands of the 100 lawmakers, it’s not the end for the push.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), former CHC chairman, has previously said he is working on a standalone bill that would allow undocumented essential workers to apply for permanent residence status. It would provide a pathway for such workers to become eligible to apply for citizenship in five years. 

“Essential workers, including undocumented immigrants, have risked their lives to keep America fed,” Castro wrote.

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