Washington, DC – A new editorial from the Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, highlights the essential sacrifices and contributions of undocumented immigrant workers during COVID-19 and makes the case for why now is the time to pass legislation that would include citizenship for undocumented workers.
Titled, “Immigrants saved an America in crisis. It’s payback time,” the editorial highlights the role of New Jersey senior Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in sponsoring the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 in the Senate – one of several pieces of legislation that would deliver long-overdue citizenship. Below, we excerpt the Star-Ledger editorial, available in full online here:
Unless you’re blinded by an ill-fitting mask, it wasn’t hard to recognize the impact of immigrants on our lives during the past year.
They are the kid stocking the shelves at the supermarket, the lady wiping down the elevator in your condo, the guy delivering pizza during the blizzard, the woman holding a grandfather’s hand as he took his last breath.
It took a pandemic for us to acknowledge that they are essential, and the vast majority of Americans believe it’s payback time.
But as President Biden throws his support behind the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that is aimed at overhauling the cruelty of his predecessor, the lingering question is how much reform he must trade away in order to gain enough Republican support to pass it.
This task will measure the limits of Biden’s political imagination, and one thing he has going for him is the right partner. At the tip of the spear is Sen. Robert Menendez, a son of Cuban immigrants who has been working on this issue for 30 years and characterizes the bill as not only an affirmation of this country’s humanity, but as an economic imperative.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: “It’s time for America to deliver a road to citizenship for undocumented workers who have been essential to our response to COVID-19. Democrats can and should use their majority to deliver on long overdue breakthroughs on immigration that are both popular and necessary. We have turned the page and it’s time for the nation to move beyond the demonization of immigrants by the GOP and extend citizenship to those who risk their lives on behalf of all Americans.”
- A December 2020 report from FWD.us found that more than 5 million of those designated as “essential workers” are undocumented.
- As the Center for American Progress wrote, “millions of these immigrants have worked alongside their neighbors to keep the country functioning and safe … After decades of taking these jobs for granted, the country has come to realize just how essential these individuals and their contributions are.”
- As a research summary from New American Economy notes, immigrants make up huge numbers of essential workers fighting to keep us safe during this once in a century pandemic: “Immigrants are fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 health crisis in a variety of essential occupations … Today, immigrants make up nearly one-third of psychiatrists and more than a quarter of America’s physicians … Immigrants make up more than 1 in 5 Food Sector Workers, including 28.7% of Food Processing Workers, 27.6% of Agriculture Workers, 18.2% of Food Delivery Workers, and 16.6% of Grocery and Supermarket Workers. Overall, immigrant workers disproportionately serve in the riskiest jobs.”