To the editor:
This is an open letter to U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem.
Every day and every night in Massachusetts, tens of thousands of undocumented essential workers care for our children and our elderly, help run our transportation system, produce and process our food, staff our grocery stores and pharmacies, build our buildings, and clean them. According to a May 2020 report from the Center for Migration Studies, more than 5.5 million undocumented individuals are among the 18.3% of essential workers in the U.S. who are foreign born. That includes an estimated 55,000 such workers in the commonwealth.
Undocumented essential workers have helped keep the rest of us safe, healthy and provided for during the pandemic, at the same time that they and their families – including many U.S. born children – are disproportionately exposed to the risks of COVID-19. That on top of the fact that, compared to other workers, they are also more likely to receive low pay, lack health benefits, and be subject to exploitation by their employers, even while living in constant fear of arrest and deportation.
At the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), a coalition of 39 faith-based groups and the North Shore Labor Council, we’ve worked to stand by these members of our community through state and local policy advocacy, raising funds for direct support of families, and organizing undocumented women workers into a cleaning and catering cooperative, Shine Together. But fundamental legal change and fundamental rights have to happen at the federal level.
Recognizing the contributions and the sacrifice of these workers, three Massachusetts representatives (Reps. McGovern, Pressley and Trahan) are among the 100 House members who signed onto a letter last month to Speaker Nancy Pelosi calling for including a pathway to citizenship for immigrant essential workers in the COVID-19 budget reconciliation recovery package, as well as for Dreamers and holders of temporary protected status (TPS). In a recent op-ed, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren similarly called on Congress to provide these workers with a pathway to citizenship in upcoming COVID-19 relief legislation.
Three years ago, Rep. Moulton, you spoke out eloquently in these pages in support of Salem’s Sanctuary for Peace ordinance, and of the economic and societal importance of our city’s undocumented immigrant residents: “Let us choose love over hate, safety over fear.” We ask you now to add your voice and vote to those of your Massachusetts colleagues who support a pathway to citizenship for immigrant essential workers, together with Dreamers and TPS holders.
These immigrant “friends and neighbors” who are now literally putting their lives and those of their families on the line to keep the Commonwealth running deserve no less.
Alexandra Piñeros Shields, PhD
The Rev. Dr. Andre K. Bennett,
Essex County Community Organization