Posted February 19, 2021
The following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project on the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021:
The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is a testament to the movement for immigrant and human rights led by Black and brown people who demand the right to remain with their families and communities. Recognizing non-citizen immigrants, including the about 7 million undocumented immigrants in the workforce, as full participants in this country without the threat of deportation, is an important step toward racial and economic justice. This shift would no doubt help lift wages and working conditions for all workers, making a just COVID-19 recovery more attainable.
As this bill proposes, Congress must work to establish a path to citizenship for all immigrants, including the millions of undocumented people who arrived to the US as children, TPS holders, farm workers, and frontline workers who have been forced to risk their health and the health of their families to keep our country going during this pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the importance of creating a broad path to citizenship and protecting immigrant workers more urgent. A recent NELP survey found that workers are witnessing high levels of retaliation against workers who raise concerns about their working conditions during the pandemic, workers are filing high numbers of retaliation complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and immigrant workers in industries like meat and poultry processing have seen COVID-19 run rampant in their workplaces and communities. At the same time, current laws still deny undocumented immigrant workers unemployment insurance support and COVID relief even though approximately 5 million undocumented workers are engaged in frontline essential work.
Employers routinely silence workers by retaliating or threatening to retaliate against them based on their immigration status. This bill notably signals a much-needed federal effort to ensure that all workers, including immigrant workers, can fully exercise their rights in the workplace. Our immigration and labor systems must together guarantee that employers cannot exploit workers’ immigration status for their own gain.