Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro said this week that undocumented immigrants who have served as essential workers amid the novel coronavirus pandemic should be put on an expedited path to citizenship. Currently, there’s no way for millions of undocumented families to “get in line” to even begin the naturalization process.
“I think that these undocumented immigrants who have been essential workers during this pandemic should be on a fast-track to citizenship, because I think that they have earned it,” Castro told MSNBC’s American Voices with Alicia Menendez.
“The government and the states asked them—in fact, in many ways, the Trump administration forced them to continue working in places like meatpacking plants, even though COVID was widespread in these things,” Castro, the former chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, continued to Menendez.
Prism’s Tina Vasquez reported last year that meatpacking plants became COVID-19 hotspots from the start of the pandemic, with hundreds upon hundreds of cases linked to individual facilities all across the nation. By September, more than 200 were dead and tens of thousands testing positive. But as Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson noted in May, the Trump administration fought to keep plants open and running, and blamed workers for getting sick.
Castro told Menendez that undocumented essential workers “helped continue to make sure that our food supply was there, that Americans could be fed, and could buy their groceries.”
Castro also noted the need to vaccinate undocumented essential workers, following Republican Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts saying that undocumented workers at plants will have to wait to get their shots until after workers with legal status are done. Because apparently the virus can tell the difference between who has papers and who doesn’t.
Facing continuing public outcry, KMTV 3 News Now reporter Jennifer Griswold tweeted that Ricketts said “they won’t be checking status when giving vaccinations at meat packing plants because that already should’ve been checked for employment.” Controversial idea: how about we quickly protect all essential workers no matter their legal status—and follow nations, like France, that have expedited citizenship for their immigrant essential workers.
Undocumented essential workers “have certainly earned the right to be vaccinated,” Castro continued. “So it’s a shame what Gov. Ricketts in Nebraska doing. But I believe beyond that, they have earned a fast-track to citizenship as well.”
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