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Early Arrival: Bike Mechanic from Mexico Dies from Coronavirus

Friday's Edition of Early Arrival: Documented and Univision 41 Investigate Coronavirus Misinformation — Salvadoran Immigrant Dies from COVID-19, 650 Workers Infected at Same Meatpacking Plant — Miller Ally Attempts to Change Refugee Agency

Juan Vicente Valerio, a beloved bike mechanic from Mexico who lived in Elmhurst, died of the new coronavirus earlier this month. “I’m going to really miss him. I didn’t let anyone touch my bike rather than him. He was really careful, the best mechanic in Queens,” said Dante Espinoza, 33, a deli man and part of the Chichilambos amateur cycling team.

Valerio moved to New York eight years ago from Mexico to work at the Hospital de Bicicletas on Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. Valerio was the most trusted mechanic in the shop and cyclists would send him parts from California to fix.

“It hurts us a lot that he’s gone. I myself am a survivor of the disease. I spent two rough weeks,” said Antonio Sanchez Martinez, 48, a restaurant worker from Corona. Gothamist

Local

Documented and Univision 41 Investigate Coronavirus Misinformation

Since New York City shut down in March, rumors about COVID-19 and the country’s response have spread through social media and mobile apps, often with dangerous consequences. To learn about which messages are circulating in New York’s Spanish-speaking immigrant community, Documented partnered with Univision 41 and asked our audiences through WhatsApp, television and social media to send us messages they wanted fact checked. Those included debunking any claims of coronavirus miracle cures, including the idea of finding a hair in a Bible, putting it in water, and drinking it; and drinking chlorine dioxide labeled “Miracle Mineral Solution.” Get the facts here.

Foreign Doctors Begin to Work in NJ Hospitals

Earlier this month, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order that authorized the temporary U.S. licensure of immigrant doctors licensed to practice in foreign countries. The move aims to alleviate pressure on the state’s healthcare system. Immigrant doctors trained abroad usually have to navigate complex state laws and policies to get licensed in the U.S. And even if they do pass required exams, some immigrant doctors remain unable to find residency programs and are unable to work as doctors. The state Division of Consumer Affairs is working on a process of accepting foreign medical doctors who don’t meet the usual criteria for licensure in New Jersey. The Record

Rep. Grace Meng Calls to Extend Work Visas

Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of Queens introduced legislation that will automatically extend the length of all work permits by one year, starting from the date when the coronavirus public health emergency declaration is eventually lifted. The measure will also apply to work permits that were valid at the time of the emergency declaration, but expired by the time the bill was enacted. “Many of these workers are immigrants who are transit employees, grocery store employees, health care workers, and so many other unsung heroes. The contributions and sacrifices that they are making are critical to saving lives and fighting this outbreak,” Meng said. QNS

National

Salvadoran Immigrant Dies from COVID-19, 650 Workers Infected at Same Meatpacking Plant

A 64-year-old Salvadoran immigrant who worked at a meatpacking plant in South Dakota was the first person to die as part of the largest  single-source cluster of coronavirus cases in the nation. Augustine Rodriguez, a worker at the Smithfield plant in South Dakota, died on Wednesday of complications related to the coronavirus. Nearly 650 workers at the Sioux Falls plant tested positive for COVID-19, according to state officials. The factory recently shut down, leaving hundreds of immigrants who work there without incomes. The New York Times 

44 Guatemalans Report COVID-19 After Deportation

A total of 44 Guatemalans all deported from the U.S. on one flight have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, a Guatemalan government official said on Thursday. Guatemala’s Foreign Affairs Minister Pedro Prolo quickly said the country had once again suspended deportation flights after pausing them for a week because three people on a previous flight had tested positive. This post recent flight of 76 Guatemalan deportees arrived in Guatemala City on Monday, as did another deportation flight from the U.S. that same day. The Associated Press

Midwest Immigration Courts and Detention Centers Struggle with Pandemic

Immigration courts and detention centers in the Midwest are struggling to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Borderless Magazine reports. ICE has confirmed 100 cases of COVID-19 among detainees, including three in the Pulaski County Detention Center in Illinois. But the government has refused to close immigration courts, conducting hearings via telephone and leading detainee numbers to grow. Attorneys in Chicago have complained about the courts calling the wrong number during a hearing and not reaching them, and immigration judges, lawyers and prosecutors have called for the courts to be completely shut down during the pandemic. The DOJ abruptly announced the closure of the Chicago immigration court on Wednesday. Borderless Magazine

ICE Files COVID-19 Records in Lawsuit

Federal Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman in Miami apologized to ICE after originally accusing the agency of sealing records related to the COVID-19 outbreak at three South Florida Detention Centers: the Krome Processing Center in Miami-Dade, the Broward Transitional Center in Pompano Beach and the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven. Each of these facilities is operated by private contractors. While ICE has made public the number of its employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, it has not listed third-party contractors. According to ICE’s most recent filings, two detainees and three security guards have tested positive at the Krome Processing Center. The Miami Herald

Otay Mesa Immigration Court Closed

Hearings at Otay Mesa immigration court in California inside the detention center of the same name were postponed Monday after it was announced that 10 Otay Mesa detainees had COVID-19, then the highest number in one detention center nationwide. Judges had been hearing cases remotely since the beginning of April after the first case was confirmed among staff. But shortly after 11 a.m. on Monday, the Department of Justice announced via Twitter that the court had been closed. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that 17 people had tested positive at the facility as of Tuesday. The San Diego Union-Tribune

Washington — Miller Ally Attempts to Change Refugee Agency, California Lawmakers Call for Investigation into ICE Facility

Heidi Stirrup, the new head of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s refugee office has begun implementing immigration policies favored by White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller, Politico reports. The Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS is now seeking to delay placing migrant children in shelters operated by the health department and instead leave them in Border Patrol custody. The office is also reviewing a policy that would block undocumented immigrant adults from sponsoring children in the agency’s custody.

Going further, the office wants to start fingerprinting all adults in a household that would like to sponsor a child, a policy ORR rejected in December 2018 because it was slowing down operations. That could deter even citizen sponsors from coming forward if they have undocumented people in their household. 

Johnathan Hayes had overseen ORR for 15 months until he was recently reassigned to the health department’s emergency preparedness division. He had massively reduced the number of children in ORR custody from 15,000 to 3,000 last month after quickly finding sponsors for them. He was replaced in an acting capacity by Stirrup, who was previously the White House liaison for HHS. Her chief of staff is Kim Womack, who previously worked on Trump’s 2016 campaign. PoliticoCalifornia Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein, as well as Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), have called for an investigation into the treatment of detainees at Otay Mesa Detention Center near San Diego, California. The congressmembers sent a letter to the DHS Inspector General on Wednesday asking for an investigation into reports that detainees were being asked to sign contracts to receive masks. The San Diego Union-Tribune

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