22 Democratic lawmakers want Biden to include a pathway to citizenship in his infrastructure plan

  • 22 Democratic lawmakers want Biden to include a path to citizenship in his infrastructure plan.
  • They argue that undocumented essential workers are critical to the nation’s economic infrastructure.
  • Economists say providing a path to citizenship could boost the economy and improve Americans’ wages.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

With President Joe Biden yet to unveil the details of the second part of his $4 trillion infrastructure plan, a group of Democratic lawmakers is urging him to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers.

Twenty-two Democrats, led by Reps. Joaquin Castro of Texas, Ted Lieu of California, and Sens. Alex Padilla of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, urged Biden in a letter on Tuesday to prioritize the inclusion of the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act as part of the president’s massive infrastructure proposal, which they said “directly relates to the priority of rebuilding America’s economic infrastructure.”

Those four legislators introduced the Act on March 1, targeted at 5 million workers without legal status who worked in healthcare, agriculture, public transit, and other frontline industries during the pandemic, with the goal to provide a quick path to citizenship for essential undocumented workers to prompt equitable COVID-19 recovery.

“For the past year, essential workers have further proven themselves to be a truly important part of our nation’s critical infrastructure and crucial part of the backbone of our society,” the letter said. “The US Department of Homeland Security even designated essential workers as part of our nation’s critical infrastructure. These workers have kept America fed, healthy, and safe throughout this pandemic, and they will be just as essential to our nation’s economic recovery.”

The letter added that if Republicans “continue to refuse to advance” immigration legislation, the next reconciliation package on jobs and infrastructure should include a pathway to citizenship.

Given Republican lawmakers’ criticism of Biden’s plan, including a path to citizenship as part of infrastructure is unlikely to gain their support. They have been trying to paint it as a “Trojan horse” full of things unconnected to what they consider infrastructure. Two weeks ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement that while Biden could have drafted a “serious, targeted infrastructure plan” that would have received bipartisan support, “the latest liberal wish-list the White House has decided to label ‘infrastructure’ is a major missed opportunity by this Administration.”

McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy both said that less than 6% of Biden’s proposal goes toward roads and bridges, and they don’t think anything unrelated to physical infrastructure should be included in the bill. Today, House Minority Whip called it “Soviet-style infrastructure,” reviving a trope on the right that Democratic proposals they disagree with are socialist in nature.

According to the Center for American Progress, undocumented workers contributed up to $79.7 billion in federal taxes and $41 billion in state and local taxes annually, and a letter more than 60 economists signed on February 11 said that providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants would boost the economy and improve wages for all Americans.

The second part of Biden’s infrastructure plan is expected to be unveiled in mid-April, and it will focus on care-economy measures, like free community college and universal pre-K.

“Essential workers are American heroes — and they have earned the right to become American citizens,” the letter said. “They have stepped up for America. It’s time for us to step up for them.”

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