Over the last 12 months, federal lawmakers have provided trillions of dollars in relief to ensure small businesses, unemployed workers, and hospitals have the support they need to make it through this pandemic. However, I think Congress has overlooked a few key groups of people who need our support — immigrants, of which many are essential workers.
In our state, there are at least 1,600 young people working in essential industries who lack permanent, legal immigration status. They’re able to work because of a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but DACA’s future is uncertain. Due to a pending lawsuit, a single judge in Texas currently holds the program’s fate in his hands. If he rules against DACA, these essentials workers — including teachers and nurses — could become eligible for deportation.
Luckily, the bipartisan Dream Act sitting in the Senate would give these young people a way to earn permanent residency. Another bill that recently passed the House in a bipartisan vote, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, would provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented agriculture workers. About half of the country’s farm workforce lacks work authorization. If they’re forced out of our fields by immigration agents, our food supply chain is at risk. That doesn’t help Idaho families or our economy.
Congress has ignored immigration for too long. Senators Crapo and Risch – it’s time to pass bipartisan legislation that supports immigrants, including essential workers.