A Washington Post investigative story about a Postville, IA meatpacking plant Agri Star exposes the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on frontline workers, many of them immigrants.
The story reveals that too many policymakers and business owners seem callous at best and engaged in dangerous disinformation at worst. The company stated that it undertook extensive effort to protect workers and blatantly lied to the media that there were zero accounts of COVID-19 in the facility. Even the state’s health department denied infection reports to lawmakers. All of these revelations come a dozen years after the meat-packing plant in Postville under previous ownership was the target of a massive immigration raid that also exposed dire working conditions, labor abuses and exploitation.
The current cover up in Postville is not isolated. For example, fruit growers are blocking testing for seasonal farmworkers and silencing them if they test positive. Food supply workers, many of whom are immigrants, refugees and migrant farmworkers, are finding themselves with few protections and an increased exposure to the virus.
In an address to the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about the racial disparities linked to infections, due to working conditions and socio-economic factors that limit access and treatment, stressing the importance that once there is a safe and effective vaccine, Latinos, other people of color and frontline workers should be among the first priority recipients.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice:
The COVID-19 crisis in America reminds us that frontline essential workers, many of whom are Latino, persons of color, and immigrants and refugees from across the planet, have borne a disproportionate share of the price in risk, infections and lives. It has never been clearer that the health and well-being of any family is dependent on the health and well-being of all families.
If the Republican-controlled Senate allows another COVID-19 package to be considered, immigrant workers and their families need to be included. Their work, health and safety are critical to America’s health and the recovery of the economy.
Looking ahead to a new Congress and President, there is an immediate need to legalize the status of workers in our economy and families and individuals in our communities. The American people are clear about wanting to allow a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and after the experience of COVID-19 and the sustained attacks on immigration, immigrants and workers under President Trump, the nation should move quickly to pass just such legislation.
An essential part of our national healing will be to reformulate our immigration system so that those who work can do so legally, those who come for essential work can come here legally, and those who are part of our communities can participate fully and become citizens.”