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Baltimore Bridge Tragedy Offers a Chance to Redefine Immigration Conversation

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Washington, DC — As more details emerge following the horrifying collapse of the Key Bridge, we’ve seen that migrant workers are at the center of this story and, in many ways, provide an opportunity to redefine our broader conversation on immigration. In such a fractured and politically acrimonious environment, the story of these immigrants losing their lives to literally build America should unite us.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Sr. Director of Communication for America’s Voice:

“Immigrants have poured their heart, soul and yes, their lives into building America. The recent tragedy in Baltimore once again reminds us that we are a nation of immigrants and a land of hope, opportunity and pursuit of the American dream. The news that these men were migrants doing a dangerous job in the hope of providing a better life for their families makes this a uniquely American story. Despite the narratives being pushed by those with anti-immigration agendas, immigrants build this country up. We’ve seen an outpouring of support for the essential work of migrant men and women in every facet of our society. Immigration is set to dominate much of the conversation around the 2024 election, and this tragedy should remind us of the positives of having a robust immigration system that benefits the American people.”

In the days after the Key Bridge collapse, leading voices have commented on the tragic loss of life and the importance migrants play in our industrial and economic success. Among them:

  • Heather Cox Richardson, writing in a popular substack letter: “In the past days, we have learned that the six maintenance workers killed when the bridge collapsed were all immigrants, natives of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador…Some of the men were undocumented, and all of them were family men who sent money back to their home countries, as well. From Honduras, the nephew of one of the men killed told the Associated Press, ‘The kind of work he did is what people born in the U.S. won’t do. People like him travel there with a dream. They don’t want to break anything or take anything.’”
  • Petula Dvorak writing in The Washington Post: “Does America need a more searing visual image than eight men working for their piece of the America dream — filling potholes on a terrifying bridge in 1 a.m. darkness — to understand that our nation was built by immigrants, runs on immigrant labor and needs immigrants? … The fact is, the kind of men who were on that bridge are doing this every day across the nation — the work that needs to be done. Dangerous work … While our nation’s immigrants are senators, doctors, lawyers and professors, many more start their American lives in jobs that literally build the nation.”
  • Will Bunch column in The Philadelphia Inquirer, “A ship crashed into a Baltimore bridge and demolished the lies about immigration.”: “Migrants from the neighboring countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico — were filling potholes on the region’s major span on a raw March night. They were doing a backbreaking job at a wretched hour, one many other Americans simply can’t or won’t do ― all so their neighbors could drive safely to their warm, comfortable office cubicles in the dawn’s early light … These six workers who perished were not ‘poisoning the blood of our country,’ they were replenishing it. This is a moment of clarity when we need to reject the national disease of xenophobia and restore our faith in the United States as a beacon for the best people like [Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval]. They may have been born all over the continent, but when these men plunged into our waters on Tuesday, they died as Americans.”
  • Statement from CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres: “In the aftermath of the tragic collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, our hearts ache for the families of the victims and all those impacted by this horrific accident. Sadly, we discovered that one of the construction workers involved was a longtime member of our CASA family, adding an even deeper layer of sorrow to this already grievous situation … Providing humanitarian support during this crisis is the priority, as families navigate this tragedy and seek answers about their missing loved ones. The entire Baltimore region and CASA family is lamenting this tragedy,” said Torres. “CASA is working closely with local municipality leaders of Baltimore County and Baltimore City to seek answers and services for the families.”