Now is the time to recognize and create paths to permanence for all those who live, work, and contribute to our communities

Stories from the “Keeping US Safe” campaign, launched by Alianza Americas and its members to highlight the contributions of immigrants in the United States and demand permanent protection.

May 21, 2020 – Immigrants, particularly those with temporary status or lacking immigration authorization are enduring the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis with limited humanitarian aid and with ever-fewer opportunities to adjust their immigration status. At the same time, they are helping communities with essential tasks while putting themselves at risk of contagion,  and the constant fear of deportation they need to access testing for COVID-19 or medical treatment. We cannot turn a blind eye to the urgency of  treating migrants as human beings with rights, by granting regular immigrant status to the millions of people who live and work among us, and contribute to our collective well-being.


Community and civil society organizations around the world have spent decades advocating for necessary, reasonable, and humane policies for people living without documents. If we are to emerge stronger from this moment, the United States should learn from and implement good practices, such as the massive project recently announced by Italy to bring into regular status nearly 250,000 immigrants who had worked as undocumented day laborers in the countryside or in domestic service for thousands of Italian households. Another interesting measure, although more limited, is that of Portugal, which in April decided to grant temporary residency to all persons with a pending permanent residence application. This measure seeks to guarantee access to health care during the emergency.


Initiatives such as those mentioned above are an example of pragmatic policies that benefit the entire population, both migrants and their families, and nationals.  In the United States, many organizations are lifting up the importance of protecting migrants with temporary status, including DACA and TPS beneficiaries. But this need applies as well to the nearly eleven million people who live undocumented: many of them children, fathers, mothers, and siblings of US citizens. The federal government recently decided to extend the validity of H2B visas for temporary workers in the food supply industry. The same was done in April for temporary agricultural workers who have H2A visas. This is a positive measure, but it would really make a difference if expanded to a broad program through which all immigrants have the opportunity to move to lawful permanent residency.


In the face of the pandemic, health providers have struggled to find trained personnel. Immigrant workers can help fill these gaps, if their professional degrees issued abroad are recognized.  Some countries have indeed authorized quick procedures or exceptions to allow the hiring of migrants or asylum seekers. This was the case in Peru, with the case of a Venezuelan gynecologist who was hired by a hospital, and in Matamoros, Mexico, with the case of a Cuban doctor offering medical attention in a refugee camp while he awaits the hearing of his asylum case in the United States. 


Migrants are members of the communities we belong to and our inclusion means opportunities and benefits for all. Formal recognition of the immigration status of these people is a necessary response to achieve the objectives of public health and economic and social well-being for our society as a whole.  Now more than ever, we should monitor and push back against migration policies that keep people in marginalized conditions.  We have an opportunity to change our mindset and recognize the many contributions of our immigrant neighbors with paths to permanent residence.

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