Denver, CO – Last week, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Castro and Lieu, and in the Senate by Sens. Padilla and Warren. The legislation would put up to 5+ million undocumented essential workers on pathways to citizenship. This week, Senator Hickenlooper joined Senator Representative DeGette in officially co-sponsoring this important legislation, while the Democratic Party of Colorado called on the entire Colorado delegation to join as co-sponsors.
“The introduction of this bill is the direct result of years of mobilization and organizing by our immigrant communities. Immigrants in Colorado and throughout the country have made their voices heard all the way to our nation’s capital,” said Lisa Durán, executive director of the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition. “We are just beginning to see the fruits of this effort.”
From the moment this pandemic began a year ago, millions of undocumented essential workers have labored tirelessly, as they already have for many years, in farms, grocery stores, hospitals, kitchens, distribution centers, and many other key places to ensure that our food, healthcare, and transportation systems remain intact, often risking their health to do so. Yet the bitter truth remains that despite their incredible contributions, they are not afforded the same protections, opportunities, or security that their fellow neighbors are.
Wendy Howell, State Director with the Colorado Working Families Party, notes, “The injustice undocumented essential workers face — the threat of deportation by the very country they regularly risk their health to keep afloat — is gaining unprecedented national attention, both in the media and in Congress. We have to celebrate this, while at the same time recognizing that the legislative solutions proposed so far feature deeply damaging bars.”
The bars include old infractions and minor contact with the criminal legal system These “carve outs” or exclusions limiting who can qualify for the bill’s pathway to citizenship, will block thousands of people from permanent residency based on arbitrary and often minor interactions with the criminal justice system. “In effect,” says Rochelle Galindo, Political and Organizing Director of Colorado People’s Action, “carve-outs like these mean non-citizens who commit even trivial offenses are punished twice: once by the criminal legal system, and then again by exclusion from the path to citizenship.”
“Draconian provisions like these have already caused long lasting and harmful impacts on our communities – our members’ breadwinners and loved ones support has been lost. Instead of building paths to citizenship full of potholes, detours and dead ends, we demand Congress present a united vision for an inclusive, transparent and efficient path to status.” says Jennifer Piper, Organizing Director with the American Friends Service Committee.
Lisa Durán agrees, “ The entire Colorado delegation in Washington DC must first join Senators Hickenlooper, Bennet, and Rep. DeGette in co-sponsoring this legislation and then must work to make it inclusive for all. This bill is an exciting first step toward justice, and at the same time, we resolve to settle for nothing less than a just pathway to citizenship for every immigrant in the United States.”
The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) is a statewide, membership-based coalition of immigrant, faith, labor, youth, community, business and ally organizations founded in 2002 to improve the lives of immigrants and refugees by making Colorado a more welcoming, immigrant-friendly state.
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world. Our work is based on the belief in the worth of every person, and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.
Colorado People’s Action (CPA) is a member-driven, racial justice organization dedicated to building governing power in Colorado. CPA builds power by mobilizing voters, electing our own people to office, holding elected officials and corporations accountable, and working to put people before profit.
Colorado Working Families Party is dedicated to upholding progressive values through direct action and electoral victory. Our mission is to empower people, organizations, and communities to build a multiracial and feminist populist movement that strengthens democracy and advances racial, social, and economic justice.