During these unprecedented times, the immigration committee is holding its meetings via Zoom but our hearts and minds continue to gather in support of all members of our community, regardless of country of origin or current immigration status. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic reminds us all that cultural differences are meaningless in the face of our humanity and vulnerability, and that we will only overcome challenges through responsible and collective efforts. As such, we are responding to this crisis by issuing a call to action in support of immigrant communities.
- We condemn xenophobic statements and we stand in bold opposition to all and any who intend to use this crisis to divide our communities or to instill hate by pinpointing an infectious disease to one population or culture.
- We support all workers, regardless of immigration status. We demand appropriate protections to immigrants who are on the frontline against COVID-19, such as healthcare workers, who continue to provide crucial services, such as agricultural and warehouse workers, and the many who already lost their jobs due to this crisis.
- We denounce the criminalization of immigrants and the unfair treatment of individuals that at this time is endangering lives, such as continued family separations through ICE raids and the dangerous conditions in detention centers.
- We support a permanent solution for TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and we urge the administration to not take any action against these important programs as we confront the pandemic.
As we understand our collective vulnerability to this pandemic, we also are very critical of inequalities that cause immigrants to be further exposed to COVID-19 and to the crises emerging from this pandemic. As many of us quarantine, healthcare workers continue to defend our communities. In Florida, 25% of nurses and 40% of health aids are foreign-born. Our agricultural workers (56% immigrants), who are already increasingly vulnerable to heatstroke and pesticide poisoning, continue to work to bring food to our markets, despite quarantine mandates. Undocumented Immigrants are also less likely to report a health problem for fear of ICE, putting our entire community at risk.
Economically, immigrants, many of whom are not eligible for unemployment benefits, are also reporting significant job losses. In Florida, those suffering from job loss include nail salon workers (81% immigrants), housekeepers and roofers (64% immigrants), taxi drivers (55% immigrants) and other service providers. There are nearly 11,000 immigrant entrepreneurs in the heart of Palm Beach County alone (Congressional District 21) and it is still unclear what relief these entrepreneurs will be able to access.
Our Immigration Committee calls upon League members to:
- Stand in opposition to the on-going family separation through ICE raids and the inhumane treatment of immigrants in for-profit detention centers. Our committee has been supporting the visitation program that provides witness and relief to non-criminal immigrants detained at the Broward Transitional Facility (BTC) and we are extremely concerned by the conditions experienced by those currently detained. Although visitations are now prohibited, we now learned through a letter signed by 280 detained immigrants that BTC is disregarding CDC guidelines and, even more disturbing, augmenting contamination risks through water shut-off practices that prevent appropriate hygienic practices within the detention center. Unless ALL of us can practice appropriate social distancing and hygiene we will ALL be more vulnerable to COVID-19. As such, we support the Florida Immigrant Coalition and allies in demanding the immediate release of all immigrants who have family or a sponsor in the United States.
- We also denounce the reckless practices of ICE, which continue to raid our communities and arrest groups of non-criminal immigrants, further augmenting population clusters in detention centers that already hold more than 50,000 immigrant adults and children on any given day.
- Lastly, we are expecting a Supreme Court decision regarding DACA at any moment. The Immigration Committee urges our League members to continue raising awareness regarding DACA and its many benefits to our community. An information sheet is available for download at lwvpbc.org/immigration.
If you want to take action and support our vulnerable communities, please send a message to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the Immigration Committee’s “Call to Action” contact list.
We appreciate our fellow Leaguers’ commitment to social justice and wish all health and safety during these challenging times.
Renata Bozzetto & Barbara Eriv
(Immigration Committee Co-Chairs)