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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is just days away from being sworn-in as California’s first Latino U.S. Senator.

But he’s not waiting to support an effort by immigrant rights advocates to fast-track legal status for undocumented workers whose jobs were designated essential during the pandemic.

“We are the health care workers and the housecleaners, we are driving city busses and farming the fields. We are the nannies, the grocery store clerks,” said Lorella Praeli, president of Community Change Action.

Padilla, a child of immigrants, says they need some level of security.

“Undocumented immigrants who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic deserve not just COVID protections and labor protections but the security of path to citizenship,” Padilla said.

Padilla is backing legislation by Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, who says immigrant essential workers are put in jeopardy.

“Latino and immigrant workers are contracting COVID-19 even now and dying at disproportionately high rates because they cannot work from home, their jobs don’t provide sick leave and cannot get time off,” Castro explained.

Nationwide there are an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants who hold essential jobs, a category outlined by many states including California.

They say change is in the wind after four years of policies restricting immigration numbers.

Padilla says Congress can multitask by acting on the proposals while facing both COVID-19 and economic relief priorities, in addition to dealing with an impeachment trial.

“Everybody’s committed to being able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” Padilla said.

Fast-tracking citizenship is relative. The goal is to make green cards available which kicks off a five-year process to become a citizen.