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Far from subsiding, the “curve” in cases of coronavirus in this nation of immigrants, representing the phase in which the pandemic is, according to experts on the matter, casting off at least some signs of relief, continues to widen. And while this line continues to grow, already in the United States, for example, more than 64,000 diagnosed cases with a total of 910 deaths are being reported.
But beyond the alarming nature of situations like this, and the measures decreed at the national level to contain the potential advancement of COVID-19, it’s worth thinking about the sectors who have added on to their habitual vulnerability a reality that they never expected to face. Of course, it is a constant for immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, to navigate a series of dangerous circumstances that strengthen them as a community and, at the same time, enrich this society that still, even today, does not fully accept them.
That is, lacking immigration legality, their obstacles have always been huge. And apart from that, now they are overtaken by an enemy as invisible as it is relentless, which has put a sharp brake on their personal lives, families, jobs, and in more than a few cases, businesses.
And although it turns out that, in this exact moment, we are all exposed in large or small part to a virus that seems to be bringing economies as strong as ours to their knees, the reality is not the same for all; a reality that in other latitudes has already exacted its cost on nations as powerful as China, wreaking havoc equally catastrophic in terms of deaths in Italy and Spain, just to mention the more affected countries.
In fact, any demographic equation that could be used these days to understand the function and the importance of each one of the components in a society as pluralistic as the United States for so long —even if this reality is often denied and even destroyed by official immigration policies— must, necessarily, include its immigrants.
Yes, those immigrants that are on the frontlines, for example, in the harvesting and production of food; those who work in the health care sector; those who provide personal assistance to sick and elderly people; those who clean offices and hospitals; those who work in stores or restaurants, among many other sectors of the economy, whether formal or informal, cannot stop working. That is, they are groups of workers essential to the functioning of society and the economy, and these days they have seen a reduction in their activities and therefore, their pay, putting not only their economic stability but their emotional stability at risk.
There are some who prefer not to look, or to look the other way, especially those who have consumed and accepted the official anti-immigrant discourse during a little more than three years, in the sense that undocumented immigrants “do not deserve” to be here, despite the fact that their hard work is utilized, exploited, and poorly paid, in addition to complying with financial obligations that they will never see reimbursed; or even those who use a more profane and xenophobic language, dehumanizing them, like the Senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul, did some days ago when he said that undocumented immigrants “are not people” able to receive help during this epidemic. Paradoxically, the legislator was diagnosed with coronavirus and quarantined.
But just look at how the most vulnerable immigrants confront this new pitfall in order to realize the level of necessity in which they are found and the reasons why inclusion and support is demanded for them. Their biggest worries, for example, are fulfilling their obligations, from the simplest to the most complex, but above all to pay their bills. That is, they feel more worried about their economic situation than about contracting the coronavirus, as the newspaper La Opinión recently reported. That is the size of the anguish or the significance of the “American dream,” a phrase that has entered into utter disuse for a while now.
In the face of a public health crisis of gigantic proportions, like that which the entire world is suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic, there should be no debate about who does and who does not get included in any aid package. This discussion, on top of being obscene and useless, only demonstrates meanness and allows us to see who opposes helping immigrants in general and undocumented immigrants in particular. Not only do they not understand a medical crisis, but they place themselves squarely on the side of their own moral decline.
We are all needed in a crisis like this, one in which no group is exceptional. And clearly this the best time to recognize the input of immigrants, documented or not; who are not and never will be “an illness,” but an antidote to many of the infirmities that not only the United States but also the rest of the world, faces.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.