Civic Inquiry: Should Essential Workers be Prioritized for Citizenship?

Learning focus questions from the Re-Imagining Migration Learning Arc:

  • How do individuals and societies manage ambiguous status?
  • What are our responsibilities toward people on the move with ambiguous status?
  • How might the [legal] environment in the new land help or hinder newcomers’ inclusion?

For many years there has been discussion about passing immigration reform. Part of that discussion revolves around questions of citizenship. Becoming a citizen of the U.S. is not easy. It can take decades for people to receive citizenship status, even when they have carefully followed every legal requirement. Without citizenship people both feel and are vulnerable to changing politics and regulation. It can prevent families from seeing each other, including parents and their children as well as married couples. While political arguments about immigration reform continue, the catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic underscored just how fragile our lives would be without immigrants.

Californa Senator Alex Padilla and Chair of the newly renamed Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety, has proposed prioritizing creating a path to citizenship for essential workers. He explains that the bill is meant to focus on “all the workers that have been here for years, paying taxes and obviously serving during the course of a once-in-a-century global health pandemic,  let’s give them the security to live without fear of deportation and put them on a pathway to citizenship.”

Reflection Questions and Teaching Ideas

This conversation focuses around ideas of citizenship. You might adapt the Project Zero connect-extend-challenge thinking-routine to begin classroom reflection.

How does this interview connect to the way you think about citizenship?

How does it extend yout thinking about citizenship?

How does it challenge your thinking about citizenship?

Padilla and his colleagues renamed the subcomitte. The interviewer notes, “The new name of your subcommittee is Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety. So the kind of policy wonks among us may remember that the old name was Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration.” Consider what is the difference in the two names. Why might it matter?