In his ridiculous, racist statement, Scalise further demanded that President Joe Biden “abandon this ridiculous plan and instead focus on getting the elderly, the vulnerable, frontline workers, and other essential Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible.” News flash for Steve: many undocumented immigrants are frontline workers, and unlike him, they’ve been essential amid this pandemic. In fact, the Center for American Progress (CAP) estimates that as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants are essential workers.
“They have worked as doctors and nurses caring for loved ones and fighting this pandemic, but these unique times have also highlighted their crucial work as agricultural workers harvesting Americans’ food; clerks stocking grocery shelves; and delivery drivers bringing food to the safety of people’s homes,” a CAP report said last year. “After decades of taking these jobs for granted, the country has come to realize just how essential these individuals and their contributions are.”
Well, many of us know it but also chose to acknowledge it. In Steve’s home state of Louisiana, thousands of undocumented immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America helped rebuild New Orleans following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. “Federal contractors lured them here from other states after airing Spanish television ads that promised high hourly wages and no threat of deportation,” The Atlantic reported in 2014. “The employers could hire undocumented immigrants because President Bush had temporarily suspended certain labor laws in the hurricane’s aftermath.” But after the rebuilding, they began to be targeted by both police and ICE.
Across the nation, deportation agents have continued terrorizing undocumented essential workers since then, including carrying out huge raids at meatpacking plants. “To make matters worse,” Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity of Mississippi said last August on the one year anniversary of workplace raids in Mississippi, “the same communities impacted by the raid are today excluded from pandemic assistance, deemed unworthy of humanitarian aid because of their immigration status—despite most of them being ‘essential workers.’”
In the last few days, 100 members of Congress have called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth to include the legalization of undocumented essential workers in the pandemic recovery package, writing in their letter that “it is vital that we include protections for immigrant workers to secure the health of our nation and lay the foundation for a robust and dynamic economic recovery.” And recovery must include ensuring that all people, no matter their legal status, have free access to the vaccine.
“Rep. Raul Ruiz, the new chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and a medical doctor who also has a public health degree, stressed that people need to have access to vaccines regardless of citizenship status to curb the spread of the disease,” Roll Call reported. “Rep. Scalise’s cruel politicization of this sentiment is a stupid public health approach that not only will prolong the pandemic but will endanger everyone’s health,” he said in the report.