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House Democrats Hold Virtual Forum with Ur Jaddou on the Role of Immigrants in COVID-19 Response & Recovery

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On Wednesday, May 13, the House Committee on Homeland Security hosted a virtual forum to discuss the role immigrants have played in the current pandemic and some of the specific issues the community is facing during the crisis. From the overwhelming number of outbreaks in immigration detention facilities to the unsafe working conditions many have had to endure in spaces like meatpacking plants and the farming industry, immigrant communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and grossly overlooked by many in power. The conversation was a step in bringing awareness to these issues and moving towards better legislation to protect these workers, many of whom are considered essential. 

Members of the forum included Democratic Representatives Kathleen Rice (NY), Yvette Clarke (NY), and Nanette Barragan (CA). In their opening statements, each member expressed gratitude towards those working on the frontlines of the pandemic and explained their specific concerns about how many of these communities, which have historically been undervalued, continue to face a unique set of challenges as the crisis continues. Representative Barragan in particular criticized her Republican colleagues and their campaign of “division, distraction, and hate” when framing these issues, and called for those in power to stand in solidarity with immigrants and recognize their sacrifices. 

Witnesses called to testify during the forum included Jon Baselice of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Ur Jaddou who serves as the Director of DHS Watch at America’s Voice.  Baselice focused on some of the economic issues surrounding immigrants during the crisis and stressed that their work is essential to keeping many American industries afloat, particularly in agriculture, health care, and cleaning services. 

Jaddou explained that despite their essential work, many immigrants are still lacking healthcare and sick leave, putting many in difficult positions as the virus sweeps through the crowded workspaces many must endure. She went on to discuss the possibility of DACA being rescinded by the Supreme Court any day now, and noted the devastating effects this would have on the healthcare industry if an estimated 29,000 workers in the field suddenly lost their work status at a time when the industry is experiencing a significant shortage of workers. 

Jaddou also explained that the United States’ current policy of continuing deportations without testing is “sending this pandemic to nations that haven’t received it yet,” further contributing to the global spread of the virus. Finally, she noted that immigrants are “the foundation of how we will exit the pandemic,” referring to the millions of essential workers who are on the frontlines every day of the crisis to provide everyone in the country services necessary for basic comforts and safety.