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Coronavirus: the reality of Latinos in the US

The severity of the pandemic in the United States has once again raised uncertainties for millions of Latino migrants.

Social distance outside a supermarket.

The situation generated by COVID-19 in the United States is even more difficult for Latino migrants. / Photo: Rawpixel - BRISTOL, UK

LatinamericanPost| Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: Coronavirus: la realidad de los latinos en EEUU

As the virus increases in the American economic superpower, the situation of millions of migrants has worsened as it is one of the most affected populations.

The state of New York has been the most impacted within the country with 270,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths. And under those numbers, days ago the mayor of New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, said that according to preliminary calculations, 34% of the deaths in the city belonged to the Latino population, being the most affected. The preliminary count put Queens and Bronx neighborhoods as the ones with the highest death rates since the first is a neighborhood mainly of Latinos and the second of African Americans, the second population with the most deaths (28%).

However, this number is only preliminary as it does not take into account the number of deaths outside hospitals as it uses the city's hospital records. This has unleashed a wave of uncertainty and panic for Latinos who have seen Queens, their traditional neighborhood, as a place of easy contagion.

According to statements by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, the main reason this has happened is social and economic inequality. In the country in general, immigrants are socially less likely to get ahead, which has also been seen as a difficulty at the time of the spread of the epidemic.

Undocumented Latino Community

According to the BBC, "official city data shows that COVID-19 kills Latinos in the city at a rate at least 1.6 times higher than whites ." But the data could be even higher, as the report, by only including hospitals, excludes another large portion of the deaths. In addition, there are many undocumented immigrants in the Latino community, which does not allow them to have health insurance and implies that many are getting sick at home and possibly dying there.

Taking into account that a large part of the migrants are undocumented, it aggravates the situation of the Latino community because they have much more unhealthy living conditions. The lack of opportunities has forced many to accept jobs where cleaning protocols are not followed. According to the New York municipal government, at least one million people in this community are undocumented, which is one-third of their totality.

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Their working conditions have been a determining factor in increasing the spread in this population. While New York City has been in a complete shutdown since weeks ago, there are essential jobs that have continued to function. These tasks, for example in the restaurant industry or in security, are carried out by Latinos. This has meant that people have had to continue working and exposing themselves daily to the virus, so it is hardly logical that many have been infected.

But beyond the contagion and high exposure they have, the real problem lies in the fear of deportation. Undocumented people prefer to evade medical centers, first because they do not have insurance or money to cover the expenses, but also because of the fear that the immigration authorities will be notified and they will be returned to their countries of origin.

Latino Jobs

In addition to the health situation for many migrants who are becoming ill, the Latino population has also been affected in the workplace. While some have had to continue working in an environment of health insecurity and exposed to the virus, many others have jobs in industries that were hit hard by the virus. 

According to unemployment reports, at least 10 million Americans lost their jobs during the first weeks of quarantine, as the economy has slowed down and in many other cases is completely shut down. 

According to DW, “A list by the Inter-American Dialogue group of experts shows that, for example, about 12% of immigrants from Central America to the United States work in the installation and repair sectors. Another almost 10% as waiters or in the food preparation area, for example, in restaurant kitchens. ” This could mean that when these industries are strained by the contingency, their jobs could be the first affected.

This has been one more component in the ordeal experienced by millions of immigrants, documented and undocumented, not only in New York but throughout the United States. Fear has been heightened not only by exposure or fear of deportation, but by the fact that many live on a day-to-day basis on their wages, without the possibility of saving or having extra expenses. Additionally, the risk of losing your job implies great instability.

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