Thousands of Venezuelan migrants in South America face a Hobson’s choice, remain in their host countries in conditions of extreme vulnerability and mandatory quarantines, or return to Venezuela, despite the risks of contagion from the virus, the closure of borders, and Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic’s heroes are the “essential worker,” the medical professionals tending the sick, the bus drivers and train conductors taking those professionals to work and home again, the ambulance crews bringing the desperately ill to the hospital, and the letter carriers, truck drivers, and bicyclists delivering mail, medicine, and food. For nineteenth and early twentieth-century immigrants, clergy were also essential workers.
The coronavirus pandemic has challenged many commonly-held perceptions about the United States. We have learned we are not invincible, for one, and are not always the best prepared in responding to crises. We also have an inequitable health-care system, as we lack the medical resources to care for everyone and too many in our country remain without health-care coverage. The other inconvenient truth that the pandemic has revealed is the injustice of our immigration system; we depend upon the labor of immigrants but scapegoat them as the cause of our problems.
Migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons have always been of special concern to the Catholic Church. Thus, it comes as little surprise that the Holy See inspired, influenced and participated with great interest in the historic development of a global strategy to respond to migrants and refugees, leading to the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in December of 2018. The Catholic Church’s work on the GCR and GCM included not only the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Integral Human Development, but also bishops’ conferences, religious orders and congregations, Catholic institutions of all kinds, and Catholic-inspired non-governmental organizations.
This paper provides estimates on “essential” immigrant workers in New York State. These workers play a central role in safeguarding and sustaining state residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, often at great risk to their health and that of their families. Based on estimates drawn from 2018 US Census data, the Center for Migration Studies (CMS) estimates that 1.8 million immigrants work in jobs in the “essential businesses” identified by New York State. These businesses fall into 10 categories that meet the health, infrastructure, manufacturing, service, food, safety, and other needs of state residents. The majority of the New York foreign-born essential workers – 1.04 million – are naturalized citizens, 458,400 are legal noncitizens (mostly lawful permanent residents or LPRs), and 342,100 are undocumented.
New York State experienced an increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last week, but a drop in hospitalizations. In the midst of the crisis, CUNY Citizenship Now! is providing remote legal services. There are challenges and not all applications can be completed under the current circumstances, but in many cases staff have “conversations that help to put the participant at ease and answer their questions.” In Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia deaths from COVID-19 have more than doubled over the last week – to nearly 1,000. Two doctors in the area stress the importance immigrant inclusion in the public health response.
The Spring 2020 edition of the International Migration Review (IMR) is now available online and in print through paid or institutional subscription. This edition is thematically sorted into four sections. The first section has articles about immigration policy, immigrant skills, and generational dynamics. The second section explores immigrant mobility, aspirations, and decision-making. The third section is about understanding transnational connections including networks, diasporas, and relations. Lastly, this edition has four book reviews, which are free to access.
New York is at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, staff of the Catholic Charities Immigrant Services program for the Diocese of Rockville Centre have “become quasi social workers/case managers.” They are “advising clients about COVID-19 symptoms,” making sure unaccompanied minors “do not fall through the cracks in our educational system,” and delivering food to families who lack transportation and are afraid to go outside.