February 02, 2021

New Op-Ed: Warren, Padilla, Castro: Covid relief is vital for undocumented essential workers

Covid relief is vital for undocumented essential workers

Op-Ed on CNN.com

Washington, DC - Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) published an op-ed on CNN.com on why the next COVID-19 relief package should have protections for all essential workers, including a pathway to citizenship. 

Read the full op-ed here and below. 

Covid relief is vital for undocumented essential workers
February 2, 2021
By Elizabeth Warren, Alex Padilla, Joaquin Castro

Essential workers have kept our nation running during the Covid-19 crisis at extraordinary personal cost, bearing the emotional burden and health risks of potential daily exposure to a deadly virus. Yet nearly a year into this crisis, frontline workers remain under protected and undercompensated -- especially the estimated more than 5 million undocumented workers in essential industries who have endured an additional fear: the possibility of deportation.

The daily danger essential workers face during this pandemic is more than a public health failure -- it is a moral failure, and one we can finally address with a new president and Democratic majority in Congress. We must swiftly enact the full suite of rights, protections, and benefits all essential workers should have been guaranteed months ago, including by immediately acting to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers in the next Covid-19 relief package.


The HEROES Act, passed by the House of Representatives in May, included work authorization and temporary deportation protection for undocumented immigrants working in critical infrastructure sectors like health care, education, and food and agriculture. President Joe Biden has now put forward a game-changing immigration proposal that goes even further by proposing a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people.

As we work to pass this important legislation, we must also immediately seize the opportunity to provide a fair path to citizenship for undocumented essential workers by including legalization in the next Covid-19 relief package to pass Congress.

There is more we must do to recognize the contributions of all essential workers. We must finally raise the minimum wage to $15 and eliminate the tipped and sub-minimum wage. And essential workers deserve robust hazard pay on top of their normal pay, in recognition of the extra risks they're taking on to keep our country running. Too many employers, some with soaring profits, cut off hazard pay at arbitrary dates despite the pandemic continuing to rage. But pay alone isn't enough.

Many essential workers have been put at heightened risk by employers that refuse to prioritize safety over profit by increasing output during outbreaks, or deflect responsibility for coronavirus outbreaks. The Trump administration abandoned all responsibility to workers and let big businesses know they'd face no accountability. The Biden-Harris administration is already taking action to change this by ordering enhanced worker-safety protections and enforcement of labor violations.


Coronavirus does not discriminate based on immigration status, and neither should our public health policies. All frontline workers should have access to vaccinations, including undocumented and uninsured workers. But health equity extends beyond just Covid-19: All essential workers should have access to the health care they need, regardless of immigration status.

Essential workers should also have access to free, reliable, high-quality childcare, which also means providing the emergency funding necessary to keep childcare providers in business. And we must ensure that workers' right to organize, and their collective bargaining agreements, are protected.


It is time for America to do right by the workers sacrificing so much for their communities and our country. We must act now to protect the health, economic security, and rights of all essential workers, including those who are undocumented immigrants.