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The Latinos most at-risk during the COVID-19 crisis

A new report encapsulates the Latino experience as essential workers on the front lines of coronavirus in the U.S.

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On April 11, Mijente Support Committee and The Labor Council for Latin Americans published a joint study breaking down the experience of Latinos in the U.S. during the COVID-19 crisis.

Many find themselves in dire situations as a result of the pandemic, not only financially and with no path to relief, but also in vital roles on the frontlines of coronavirus

Beyond highlighting the experiences of some Latinos on the frontline, the report also delves into some of the reasons why many Latinos find themselves there.

It notes in its introduction that even before the pandemic, Latinos represented “an overwhelming majority of workers in low-wage jobs.”

Those include farm workers, grocery store staff and caretakers, which were highlighted in the report.

An unfortunate result of the high number of low-wage workers is also having the most workplace fatalities and only roughly 38% with access to healthcare.

Add that to the fact that many of the low-wage Latino workers are also undocumented, and COVID-19 represents a grave danger.

For Isabel Morales, an undocumented immigrant who’s lived and worked 18 years as a farm worker in Florida, COVID-19 is both a medical and financial death knell.

When it comes to work, Morales is “essential” for the food she picks in the fields, but also for the money she’s paid to support three young men at home.

It’s only six months ago that she became a widow, meaning she’s the sole breadwinner in the family.

“During this time of coronavirus, I and many others continue working to put food on the tables of families across the country,” said Morales.

While working, she spoke of the lack of protective gear provided by her employer. Instead, Morales must use some of what she’s paid to buy her own gear.

That’s made even more difficult by her long shifts and breakdown in the PPE supply chain amid overwhelming demand.

“Now, many things are sold out,” said Morales.

She encounters the same problem when shopping for food and other essential supplies at the end of the workday.

As an undocumented immigrant, Morales also doesn’t have health insurance if she gets sick, and isn’t eligible for unemployment or any part of the government’s stimulus package if she gets laid off.

“I pay my taxes, I risk my life and that of my children to keep everyone fed and what help do we get?” she said. “We all deserve to be valued.”

Those same insecurities are seen by Leticia in New Orleans on a daily basis during COVID-19. An immigrant from Honduras, she was a caretaker for 11 years before the person she took care of passed away. 

Now, she organizes as part of Familias Unidas en Acción providing food and other services to New Orleans’ undocumented population.

While the virus rages, Leticia finds most of those she interacts with from the community fear the lack of response from the government more than the virus itself. 

To them, coronavirus “does not discriminate, but they [the government] do.” 

The results of that discrimination can be seen in the U.S.’s quick rise to the top of the world in both COVID-19 cases and deaths. Most of those affected have been African-Americans and Latinos

“Not being able to feed our families, not having access to medical attention, having to live in fear of being separated from our loved ones,” said Leticia. “These are all the things that our immigrant community is suffering in this moment of crisis.”

Despite the odds, she vows to continue fighting, as do millions of Latinos across the country.

“No one will save us,” said Leticia. “We have to save ourselves.”

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