Undocumented Latino immigrants are bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City. Many work jobs deemed essential such as delivering food, and when they return home, are living in cramped conditions in apartments where social distancing is difficult. And while they are losing loved ones in large numbers, they’re also struggling to bury them because undocumented people do not qualify for city funding to help with the costs.
More than 400 Mexican migrants in the New York area are known to have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. For health reasons, Mexico will only accept their bodies if they are cremated. One migrant, Adrian Hernandez Lopez, died due to the virus and his brother who had crossed the border with him 15 years ago was only able to see his body via photos from the funeral home.
According to a recent poll, more than half of Latino voters said they know someone who died of COVID-19. ProPublica spoke to a dozen undocumented Latinos to hear about their experience during the pandemic. ProPublica
Undocumented Workers Demand Better Working Conditions
Undocumented workers in New Jersey held car protests on Friday to demand better working conditions. Latinx and Black immigrant workers are being forced to choose between a paycheck and their health. Norma Morales, a 46-year-old single mother of two girls in New Jersey who cleans homes for a living, stayed home when she started feeling symptoms of COVID-19. She does not have paid sick leave or health insurance so she lost income. The protests took place in Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Texas and were organized by Cosecha, an immigrant rights organization. NPR
COVID-19 Complicates Census Outreach
Census outreach in Queens has faltered amid the coronavirus pandemic. Activists are eager to ensure all of New York’s immigrants are counted in the 2020 census, but groups who were previously getting 300 people to fill out the survey in a day are now lucky if they get 50 people to watch a webinar. People are losing loved ones and their jobs, so the census is not top of mind and it is difficult for organizers to get people to prioritize it. Response rates in Queens are below the city, state and national levels so far, at about 44 percent versus 45 percent in New York City and 56 percent around the country. NBC News
Long Island 7-11 Pleads Guilty to Hiring Undocumented Workers
Yong Min Choe, the owner of a 7-11 in Brentwood, New York, admitted to hiring undocumented immigrants and pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens.” Choe now faces up to 10 years in prison and agreed to forfeit $1.3 million in assets. Choe was also accused of wage theft, knowingly underpaying the undocumented workers he hired. In 2018, nearly a hundred 7-11s across the country were targeted in a nationwide Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweep. Daily Voice
ICE Detainees Protest inside Detention Center
A group of 10 ICE detainees at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, refused to be tested for COVID-19 and protested instead, according to the sheriff’s office. Law enforcement went in and “restrained” detainees, the sheriff’s office said. Three detainees were hospitalized during the incident. Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the detainees. They alleged that correctional officers were attempting to move detainees from one part of the facility to the medical wing, which the detainees feared would expose them to the risk of infection. Associated Press
Yemeni Men Face Deportation After Perilous Journey
Osamah Mahyoub and Emad Al-Azabi took one of the world’s most perilous migrant trails, fleeing threats from Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen, only to face potential deportation. Their journey first took them to nearby Djibouti, then Ecuador, then on a four month journey through South and Central America to the U.S. They were first taken to a San Antonio detention camp before being transferred to Adams County Detention in Mississippi. Despite Yemen being in the midst of one of the world’s most brutal civil wars, Mahyoub and Al-Azabi were denied their asylum claim and are set to be deported. HuffPost
Judges Order Release and Bond Hearings for ICE Detainees
Judges across the country have ordered the release of several ICE detainees due to the spread of the coronavirus in detention centers. As of Sunday, ICE confirmed 522 detainees had tested positive for the virus of the 1,073 who were tested nationwide. Two HIV+ men were released from IAH Secure Adult Detention Facility in South Livingston, Texas, following an order from a federal district court. A judge in New Hampshire ordered that medically vulnerable ICE detainees at the Strafford County Jail be given bond hearings. U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty said social distancing in the jail was impossible. New York Daily News, Union Leader
Guatemalan Deportees Face Death Threats Over Coronavirus
Guatemala’s indigenous Maya towns are threatening deportees returning from the U.S. over fears they will spread the coronavirus. Some have been threatened with burning their homes or lynching, and in one village, residents tried to burn down a migrant shelter. Even relatives of deportees are facing threats of expulsion. Nearly one fifth of the 585 confirmed coronavirus cases in Guatemala can be traced back to the U.S, most from two flights in one day. When 19-year old Carlos Cumes returned to the village of Santa Catarina Palopo after being deported, he was met by an angry mob who had seen him on television. Reuters
Migrants Left in Limbo Due to Coronavirus
The pandemic has allowed governments around the world to take extraordinary measures in sealing borders and quickly deporting migrants. Migrants have been left drifting in the Mediterranean or in the Libyan desert. And in the U.S., migrants are being quickly deported to Mexico as soon as they cross the border. Mexico then takes migrants from the U.S.–Mexico border to the Guatemala–Mexico border. The Mexican government has also been accused of simply leaving migrants at the border to fend for themselves, even though the Guatemalan government has been accepting other Central Americans into the country. Associated Press
Miller Long Hoped to Use Public Health to Block Migrants, White House Still Considering Blocking Aid to Sanctuary Cities
White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller has repeatedly tried to use public health as a reason to block migrants from entering the U.S. for several years, The New York Times reports. In 2019, he reportedly sought to use the mumps outbreak in detention centers to invoke public health powers and shut down some forms of legal immigration. Later that year, he apparently tried to do the same when the flu began spreading in Border Patrol stations. Miller also reportedly studied the migrant caravans of 2018 to see if there were illnesses being carried. When children died in Border Patrol stations, the Times says he viewed it as further evidence that allowing migrants into the U.S. was a public health risk.
Cabinet secretaries and lawyers had previously talked Miller down from using those situations as the basis for a proclamation. Federal law grants the surgeon general and president the power to block people entering the country to avoid “serious danger” posed by the presence of a communicable disease in foreign countries.
It seems the coronavirus pandemic has been the opportunity Miller was waiting for. President Trump has closed all land borders to nonessential travel and implemented other international travel restrictions. One official told the Times that invoking public health powers had been on a “wishlist” of about 50 ideas for restricting immigration that Miller had crafted in the first six months of the administration. The New York Times
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said it is still possible Trump would withhold coronavirus relief aid from sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement for the most part. Trump has been at odds with them throughout his presidency, and his administration has sought to withhold federal funding for them in the past. Now he is considering tying aid for the coronavirus response to concessions from sanctuary cities he had sought previously. The Guardian