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On Press Call Experts and DACA Recipients Discuss the Immigrants Protecting America Amid Xenophobic Attacks

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A recording of the call is available here

Earlier today on a press call, a panel of experts were joined by DACA recipients to talk about the integral role that immigrants and their families are playing to safeguard America’s health and combat the COVID-19 pandemic at hand. As the Trump administration continues to rely on nativism and scapegoating and plaster xenophobic targets on their back, immigrant communities are doing what they do best — stepping up to serve the United States specifically, on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Teresa Romero, President of United Farm Workers of America (UFW), said,

Farm workers are uniquely vulnerable in the pandemic because of the cramped, substandard and unsanitary conditions in which most must live, commute and work. We all must do more during this crisis to protect their health and safety. That is why we are calling on agricultural employers to take meaningful and concrete steps, from extended sick leave and mandatory workplace safety plans to easy access to health services and covering farm workers under state and federal benefits since at least half are undocumented. Unlike farm workers, other employees listed as essential—such as health professionals and grocery store workers—are covered under America’s labor and social protective laws such as minimum wages, overtime pay and the right to organize.

Marita Etcubañez, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, said,

Words matter in this environment. We will continue to say to our elected officials that they must stop using terms like ‘Chinese Virus’ because such language incites verbal abuse and physical violence. To our community we say, we are with you. We encourage you to report racist attacks to StandAgainstHatred.org and we have COVID-19 resources on our website to help you through this disturbing time. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Advancing Justice | AAJC has led the way in showing how deliberate, wrongful wording has fueled racists attacks on our community. We won’t stop until the attacks stop.

Denisse Rojas, Co-founder of Pre-health Dreamers and DACA recipient, said,

DACA recipients across the nation are on the front-lines of aiding those with COVID-19. At Pre-Health Dreamers, over 250 members are currently practicing as doctors, nurses, medical assistants and researchers providing care to those in need. These same community members are at risk of losing their ability to practice if the Supreme Court does away with DACA. We urge Congress to act on permanent legislation for our community immediately.

Ciriac Isbeth Alvarez Valle, Policy Analyst for Voices for Utah Children and DACA recipient, said,

DACA recipients and immigrant families are being heavily impacted by this crisis  as they are also losing their jobs and income and facing uncertainty without having support they need to counter their losses. We need policies from national, state, and local levels that address these issues and the lack of support for health services for immigrants to ensure that everyone in our communities can move forward from this crisis.

Guerline Jozef, Founder and Executive Director of Haitian Bridge Alliance, said,

We have spoken with healthcare professionals across the country, many of whom are DACA recipients and TPS holders who work as home health aides and certified nurse aides. Many of these brave men and women are first responders on the forefront of the COVID-19 crisis, but do not have health insurance themselves. Haitian Bridge Alliance urges state and federal legislators to equally protect all workers who are risking their lives to care for us, citizens and non-citizens alike.

Ur Jaddou, Director of DHS Watch and former general counsel of USCIS, said,

The public health crisis created by COVID-19 has exposed the critical nature of workers in certain industries that are on the front lines protecting all of us, from doctors, nurses and all of their support staff in the healthcare industry to workers in our food industry, including in grocery stores, agricultural fields, meat processing, trucking, restaurants and elsewhere. It also includes technology workers such as those ensuring access to video- and tele-conferencing for tele-health services, teleworking, and for millions of students connecting with teachers from home. There are construction workers needed to build more space to meet fast-growing health care needs and so many others in industries that have suddenly become critical to protecting us in this pandemic.  They all need appropriate gear to protect themselves, free testing, and access to affordable health care if they get sick. And for the thousands of immigrants who are in these jobs, they need immigration protection so they can go on working for all of us without fear of falling out of status, threat of deportation, or financial ruin due to health care costs associated with a COVID-19 infection from being on the front lines of this pandemic.