Lorena Borjas, a transgender activist and community leader died early on the morning of March 30 due to the new coronavirus. Borjas, 59, was a native of Mexico and a neighborhood leader in Jackson Heights. She was a fierce advocate for transgender people, sex workers and immigrants “It is such a dark day for all of us,” said Borjas’ close friend Cecilia Gentili, another trans leader.
Borjas was hospitalized at Long Island Jewish Medical Center for a couple of days as she awaited her COVID-19 test results, but was discharged before they came. “They sent her back home, where she really declined,” Gentili said.
Borjas came to the U.S. in her early 20s, and she became an advocate for making HIV testing more accessible, as well as providing better access to contraceptives and access to legal representation for immigrations. In December 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pardoned Borjas’ decades-old offenses related to her status as a human trafficking victim that were threatening her legal status in the country. QNS
For Day Laborers in Williamsburg, No Choice But to Continue Working
On a recent Friday morning, Ligia Guallpa saw at least 40 workers on the ‘parada’ — a series of blocks along Marcy and Division Avenues in Williamsburg where day laborers queue, waiting for work opportunities, even though the COVID-19 pandemic had shut down much of the city. Working from home is not an option for domestic workers, who are now being employed to clean and disinfect worksites to make them safe for others. With no job security, many are opting to work with little or no protective equipment. Guallpa is the Executive Director of Workers’ Justice Project, a worker’s center in Brooklyn that supports low-wage immigrant workers, many of whom are domestic workers. WJP usually supports workers in multiple sectors, but the organization has recently focused on cleaning workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more at Documented
Reader Questions about Immigration and the Coronavirus, Answered
Last week, Documented put a call out to our Documented Semanal readers on WhatsApp, asking what questions they have about immigration rights as they relate to the coronavirus pandemic. The outbreak has upended the immigration system and created a great deal of uncertainty. We posed the most recurring questions our readers had to Claire Thomas, Director of the Asylum Clinic at the New York Law School. Read her answers at Documented.
ICE Sued to Release NJ Detainees
The ACLU of New Jersey asked a court to free two immigrant detainees from the Essex County jail as COVID-19 spreads throughout the facility. The complaint was filed Sunday in the U.S. District Court in Newark on behalf of Mario Salazar and Mikhael Vasserman. “The dire situation in civil detention facilities makes the release of our clients a matter of life and death,” ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Farrin Anello said in a statement on Monday. As of Monday, four employees of the jail had tested positive for COVID-19, as well as one detainee held there. The Record
Federal Judge Calls on ICE to Release Migrant Families
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., is calling on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release migrants held at family detention centers over fears of COVID-19 spread. Still, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg did not order the immediate release of about 1,350 members of migrant families detained at three centers in Pennsylvania and Texas as part of a recently filed lawsuit. “I will order that in a week [April 6], the government has got to come back to me and give me answers about the capacity of these centers, videotapes of living conditions and steps taken toward release,” Boasberg clarified. The Washington Post
Immigrant Workers Provide Essential COVID-19 Work
Six million immigrant workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic, keeping U.S. residents healthy, safe and fed, according to a Migration Policy Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Foreign-born people represented 17 percent of the 156 million civilians working in 2018, but they are overrepresented when it comes to pandemic-response occupations. Nearly a third of all physicians in the United States are foreign born, as are 38 percent of home health aides and 23 percent of retail store pharmacists. Immigrants also represent large shares of the workers cleaning hospital rooms, staffing grocery stores and producing and transporting food across the country. Migration Policy Institute
California Farm Workers Deemed ‘Essential’ Aren’t Given Protective Gear
California farm workers were deemed essential and allowed to keep working amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But according to some of those workers, the coronavirus spread has changed nothing about the way they live and work. “The distance principle, six feet between people, does not work in agriculture,” said Sumano, who picks strawberries. Beyond that obvious danger, workers are also concerned about losing working hours and pay as some growers lose business. “It is an honor to be a farm worker and an essential worker,” said Sumano. “But I have many worries.” California grows two-thirds of the country’s fruit and nuts and a third of its vegetables, and employs roughly 400,000 agricultural workers. The Guardian
Women Detained in Louisiana Says Fellow Detainee Might Have COVID-19, Guards Covering it Up
Women detained by ICE in Louisiana have been warning the public about a sick detainee they believe has COVID-19 — and have been punished for speaking out. A woman who worked in the kitchen “got sick with a sore throat, high fever, and diarrhea. She spent three days in bed,” said Rosa Pino Hidalgo, another detainee in the facility. She was given a flu test, which came out negative, Pino Hidalgo continued. “Then a doctor and nurse went into her dorm, dressed in medical gowns, masks, gloves, and protective eyeglasses. We’ve never seen that when people have the flu. They carried the woman out on a gurney. Her body was also in protective gear and she was hooked up to oxygen.” Guards reportedly claimed the woman’s quarantine was for the flu. The Intercept
Trump Administration Expediting Deportation of Migrant Children
The Trump administration has begun quickly deporting immigrant children who have been apprehended alone at the southern border. Administration officials say they’re following public health orders in doing so, but advocates suspect they’re using the opportunity to deport young migrants wholesale. “Children arriving at the border, many of whom have endured unimaginable harm at home and on their journey, are the most vulnerable group encountered by border officials. Unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy analyst at the American Immigration Council. BuzzFeed News
Washington — Lawsuit Calls for Full Closure of Immigration Courts, Judge Orders Trump Administration to Show Why Migrant Detention is Necessary
A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday is demanding that the Executive Office for Immigration Review and ICE suspend in-person immigration hearings and provide safe alternatives for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Centers for Disease Control acknowledges in-person court appearances are a risk during the new coronavirus outbreak, the lawsuit also accuses EOIR of failing to take precautionary measures like the Bureau of Prisons and the federal courts have.
“Most immigration courts remain open for in-person business, putting the health and safety of individuals in immigration detention and their attorneys at risk,” the lawsuit says. Instead of allowing in-person hearings to continue, advocates are calling on the government to suspend hearings and to provide “robust remote access alternatives for detained individuals.”
In New York, advocates, defense attorneys, ICE prosecutors and immigration judges have all called for the courts to be closed. The Varick Street immigration court temporarily closed when court staff tested positive for COVID-19, and all its cases have since been transferred to remote hearings with judges in Texas. All non-detained hearings were also cancelled shortly after the outbreak began to rapidly spread, but many immigration courts nationwide still remain open. Newsweek
A federal judge confronted the Trump administration on its treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. Judge Dolly Gee of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles instructed the Health and Human Services Department and ICE to either release migrant children or explain why they must continue to be detained during the pandemic. If the agencies fail to do this by April 10, Gee says she will order the government to release about 3,400 children in HHS custody and others at ICE detention centers. The judge said the detention facilities are “hotbeds for contagion.”Vox