Padilla Announces Pathway to Citizenship for Essential Workers in First Bill as Senator

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) joined Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX-20), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA-33) in announcing the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act at a virtual roundtable with essential workers – Padilla’s first bill as a United States Senator. Both of Padilla’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. His father worked as a short-order cook and his mother worked as a housekeeper – both jobs that would be deemed essential work today during the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this month, Padilla announced he will serve as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Safety Subcommittee.

The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act would create an expedited pathway to citizenship for the over 5 million essential workers without permanent legal status who have kept Americans healthy, fed, and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill provides undocumented essential workers with a fast, accessible, and secure path to citizenship, beginning with immediate adjustment of status to legal permanent resident. This legislation is a critical part of a just and inclusive COVID-19 recovery.

“The essential workers that have worked so heroically on the front lines during the pandemic include more than 5 million undocumented immigrants. These heroes have risked their health and their lives to keep our communities safe and our economy moving and they have earned a pathway to citizenship,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “My parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. My father worked as a short-order cook and my mom used to clean houses, jobs that would be considered essential today. Dignity, respect, and citizenship for essential workers is personal for me and in the best interest of our country. I’m proud to lead my colleagues with Representative Castro to give undocumented essential workers the protections they have earned.”

“From farmworkers in the fields to nurses in the ICU, immigrant essential workers have risked their lives, and their families lives, every day during this pandemic. Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude and they have earned a path to citizenship”, said Congressman Castro. “We must not allow the workers who are called essential today to be deported tomorrow. Undocumented essential workers deserve to stay here in their home and to be recognized as the heroes – and Americans – they are.” 

“Essential workers risk their lives every day to keep our country running — but about 5 million of those workers now live-in fear of deportation,” said Senator Warren. “We must act immediately to correct this injustice, and that’s why I’m proud to announce The Citizenship For Essential Workers Act with my colleagues to provide a fair pathway to citizenship for essential workers.” 

“Workers in health care, meatpacking, agriculture, public transit and other industries strive to ensure our neighbors have basic necessities and are cared for. During the pandemic, these are people who have risked their lives to keep our economy and country running,” said Congressman Lieu. “I’m proud to partner with Congressman Castro and Senators Padilla and Warren to announce the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act. This legislation provides an expedited pathway to lawful permanent resident status and eventual U.S. citizenship for over 5 million undocumented essential workers who have been a critical part of the COVID-19 response. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.”

A bill fact sheet is available here.

“Essential workers deserve more than praise; they deserve citizenship,” said event moderator Alida Garcia, Vice President of Advocacy at “I am grateful to Senators Padilla and Warren and Congressmen Castro and Lieu for announcing The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act to acknowledge the sacrifice and contribution these individuals have made throughout the pandemic to support our nation. The pandemic rages on and it’s urgent that Congress take up and pass this legislation, along with protections for immigrant youth, TPS holders, farmworkers, and other members of the undocumented community.”

After the virtual roundtable, essential workers shared the following statements:

“After two weeks of working hard trying to clean and disinfect when the pandemic started last March, I started to show symptoms of COVID-19 and had to be quarantined. It was especially hard missing the birthday of my oldest daughter,” said Doris Landaverde, a TPS recipient from El Salvador and janitor at Harvard University. “I hope the government recognizes that essential workers are an important asset to the community and passes legislation to provide a path to citizenship for all immigrant essential workers, including TPS holders like me. We all deserve to be protected, respected and valued for the work we do.”

“As a nurse treating people in the Critical Care COVID-19 unit, I’m committed to providing the best possible care to my patients,” said Javier Quiroz Castro, an IMU nurse from Houston. “Essential frontline workers like me have built our lives here – I’m blessed to be a father to a beautiful baby girl who is a U.S. citizen. We want to make sure that while we’re caring for others in our communities, we can access a path to citizenship so that we can stay safe and together with our families where we belong.”

“We, as essential workers, are earnestly showing our love through our work. We hope many will understand our struggles as immigrants, and show solidarity with us in our struggle as if it was one of your family members that was in this situation – being an essential worker without protections,” said Yoselyn Chalas, Undocumented Restaurant Worker, Massachusetts. “I hope that God can touch the hearts of the ones that need to hear the harsh reality of the undocumented through our voices. We are contributing to the economy of this country courageously. Approve the pathway to citizenship for essential workers! It will further strengthen the economy of this country, and our families!”

“I am a housecleaner; I was working for 3 families before the pandemic. After the pandemic, I lost my jobs with no notice or severance–I went to work in a building being renovated and got COVID,” said Ana, Undocumented Domestic Worker, Houston, Texas. “As an undocumented worker, you regularly find yourself working for employers who don’t pay a fair wage and they try to exploit you–but because of fear of retaliation and deportation, many stay silent. Permanent status, would mean ensuring getting paid and treated fairly at work–I would be able to live free from fear of deportation for demanding my rights and more freely contribute to my community.”

“The grapes, bell peppers, lettuce and other fruits and vegetables that my family makes sure other Americans have to eat can’t be harvested through Zoom. For nearly an entire year, farm workers have risked their lives to produce our food in the pandemic,” said Leydy Rangel, DACA Recipient, Daughter of Farmworkers, California. “Laboring through COVID is risky enough—death rates due to COVID have been worse for farm workers and other essential workers than other populations, but undocumented farm worker families like mine face another menace—our lack of legal status. We can’t wait for relief any longer. Undocumented farm workers deserve multiple vehicles to get us to victory. We are grateful to Senators Padilla and Warren and Congressmen Castro and Lieu for announcing the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act. We also applaud the bicameral leadership that honors the men and women that feed all of us with the U.S. Citizenship Act and the Farm Workforce Modernization Act.”

“With TPS I am able to be more confident at my job, receive benefits like health insurance and most importantly, a work permit. During COVID, I lost my job and this was very challenging. But thanks to TPS I was able to survive by receiving unemployment benefits. I recently returned to work as a nanny, but because the pandemic is still happening, I knew I was putting my life at risk daily,” said Sundari Rai, TPS Holder from Nepal, Nanny, New York. “Unfortunately, I got sick with COVID, and am just now recovering. People do not think about domestic workers as essential workers. They don’t realize that someone’s home is our workplace. This is our professional work. Our profession is to give care to a family. There are so many other domestic worker sisters like me in our community, and there are 15,000 Nepalis with TPS like me in the U.S. All of us are living day to day, not knowing what will happen to our status. Our life, our job, everything depends on our status. We have built a life here, this is our HOME. We are proud of our jobs – I am proud to be a domestic worker. We deserve permanent residency, and to continue contributing to this country’s economy and society as immigrant workers.”

“I have called this country home for 20 years, yet it has been a temporary one. I am hoping that one day, I will get the privilege to call this country my permanent home,” said Rose Tillus, TPS Holder from Haiti, Nurse. “I want our lawmakers to know that TPS holders and essential workers are valuable, hard-working people in the community and that our lives and futures should not be in constant limbo.”