Washington Post: Illegals are being “hit first – and worst” by the pandemic

Tracy Jan of the Washington Post has published a piece titled “Undocumented workers among those hit first – and worst – by the coronavirus shutdown”

President Trump recently answered a reporter asking how illegals would “survive” during the coronavirus pandemic without stimulus checks, since they are ineligible.

Reporter:

No undocumented immigrant will receive any aid from the government during this crisis. How do you suppose they survive during the COVID-19?

President Trump:

Well, you know, you are saying undocumented, meaning they came in illegally and a lot of people would say that we have a lot of citizens right now that won’t be working, so what are you going to do? …. It’s a very sad question, I must be honest with you, but they came in illegally and we have a lot of people that are citizens in our country that won’t be able to have jobs.

WATCH:

 

Tracy Jan of the Washington Post writes:

Evilin Cano was dismantling a rooftop skating rink in Manhattan’s Seaport district when her construction crew was notified that the venue would be closing, along with much of New York – and that she would be out of a job.

The next night, the 33-year-old undocumented day laborer from Guatemala fell ill with a fever. Her head pounded. Her throat hurt. She could not stop coughing or vomiting. And she was short of breath. She does not know whether she has covid-19 because three hospitals told her not to bother coming in for testing unless she’s gasping for air. “They told me to stay at home, don’t go out, and when I can no longer breathe, call 9-1-1 for them to pick me up,” Cano said.

The collapse of the U.S. economy brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the extreme vulnerabilities of millions of undocumented workers like Cano, who are disproportionately employed in industries undergoing mass layoffs as well as high-risk jobs that keep society running while many Americans self-isolate at home.

Many of the undocumented, working in construction, restaurants and other service sectors, have already lost their jobs. Others, in industries like agriculture and health care that have been declared essential, work in jobs that typically require close quarters or interacting with the public, putting them at higher risk of getting sick.

Unlike many American workers, undocumented immigrants cannot count on the social safety net if they lose their jobs or get sick. Most do not have health insurance or access to paid sick leave – putting them and the people they encounter at risk. Nor are most eligible for unemployment insurance or the cash payments included in the $2 trillion relief package Congress passed last month – even if they pay taxes, even if their children are U.S. citizens.

“The government has announced it was going to support people affected by the coronavirus but that’s for Americans – not for people like us who are undocumented,” said Cano, who applied for asylum in November. “My fear is if I seek help, this country will see me as just trying to take advantage of the system.”

Cano said she had been a police officer living a middle class life in Guatemala, when a gang tried to kidnap her teenage daughter, and she fled with her two eldest to New York.

She was just five days into a three-month job at the Seaport transforming what had been a temporary winterscape into a summer oasis when the contractor pulled her crew aside on March 20 and told them not to return.

Soon after Cano got sick, her daughter developed a fever, too. So did her boyfriend. Unable to seek care, Cano spent five days in bed and remains quarantined in her Brooklyn home.

Construction had been a step up for Cano. When she first came to the U.S. more than a year ago, she patched together a living at a Salvadoran restaurant, earning $50 for 13 hours of overnight work cleaning and preparing pupusas for delivery. When the till came up short, she said, the cashier would dock the difference from Cano’s earnings. One night, she made so little that she had to borrow the $2.75 bus fare home.

Last June, she became a day laborer in construction – doing demolition work, painting, the finishing touches. She made $150 per nine-hour shift – enough to support her 17- and 16-year-old and still send money back to the 11- and 7-year-old she left behind with her mother.

Now, she is broke – with no savings and no income. She felt heartsick during a recent phone call home, telling her mother that no money would be coming this month.

Read more here.