Durbin: We Must Protect The Immigrant Health Heroes On The Frontlines Of COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, thanked the health care heroes on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted one special group of health care workers – immigrants.  Durbin also called on Senate Republicans to support the House-passed Heroes Act, which would extend work authorizations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients and other impacted immigrants, as well as the bipartisan House-passed American Dream and Promise Act, which will establish a path to citizenship for Dreamers and immigrants with TPS or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

While court decisions on DACA and TPS hang in the balance, Dreamers and TPS holders across the country are working on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 as doctors, nurses, health care professionals, and in countless other essential job roles.  Despite their contributions to the American workforce, the Trump Administration is focused on arbitrarily ending the programs that allow approximately 131,300 TPS holders and 202,500 DACA recipients to serve on the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19.

Durbin’s floor speech was part of his initiative to share the stories of #ImmigrantHealthHeroes.  Today, Durbin shared the story of Javier Quiroz Castro, a DACA recipient and nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital where he is a member of the team taking care of patients with COVID-19.

“It would be an American tragedy to deport this brave and talented nurse who is saving lives in Houston, Texas, as we speak.  We must ensure Javier and hundreds of thousands of others in our workforce are not forced to stop working when we need them the most.  Ultimately, we need to pass legislation to demonstrate who we are, what we believe in, what our values are.  What does it say about America if we say to Javier, ‘we don’t need you?’  We do.  We need him and so many just like him who are performing essential services in this time of national emergency,” Durbin said.  “We’ve got to do better for Javier and the DACA recipients.  They are counting on us, those of us in the Senate, to solve this crisis created by President Trump’s action.  As long as I’m a Senator, I will continue to come to the floor of the Senate to advocate for Javier and the Dreamers.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

Durbin first introduced the Dream Act nineteen years ago.  In March 2019, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Durbin introduced the Dream Act of 2019.  The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin and Graham coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.

Last month, Durbin led 37 Senators in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to automatically extend work authorizations for DACA and TPS recipients and other impacted immigrants.

Javier is the 121st Dreamer whose story Durbin has told on the Senate floor.  Javier’s parents brought him to the United States when he was three years old.  He grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.  Javier’s father worked in construction as a bricklayer, and his mother cleaned homes and office buildings.  As the oldest child and the best English speaker, Javier took care of his three younger siblings and helped his family navigate American society.

Javier went to a private Christian college in Nashville, Lipscomb University.  At Lipscomb, he discovered his love of nursing.  He enrolled in the school of nursing and did his clinical training at Vanderbilt Medical Center.  Javier graduated in May 2013 with his Bachelor’s in Science of Nursing.  Javier received the Spirit of Nursing Award, which each year is given to only one nursing student who best delivered quality care

Because President Obama established DACA in 2012, Javier was able to become a registered nurse.  Javier now lives in Houston, Texas, where he has works at Houston Methodist Hospital.  He is a part of the team taking care of patients with COVID-19.