The COVID-19 crisis continues to seriously affect the U.S. population with its widespread social impacts. Between high unemployment rates, a failure to distribute an adequate amount of test kits, access to medical and health services, and the bureaucratization of financial assistance programs, many communities have been left behind during this pandemic.
The most marginalized groups in our border communities continue to be the most impacted, and their conditions are worsening day by day. These groups, including immigrant families, farm workers, single mothers, and older adults, were already suffering from systemic marginalization before the current public health crisis. Now they are bearing the brunt of the crisis and don’t even have the hope that the authorities and institutions that should be concerned about their health and survival will bring them the relief and basic protections they urgently need.
Almost five months after the first surge of this coronavirus pandemic on the border, the directives by federal, state and local authorities to stay and work from home have been plagued by discriminatory practices and exclusion processes that have impacted thousands of impoverished families. The programs and initiatives implemented by the government and institutions to face COVID-19 have either failed, been insufficient, or wrongfully directed and poorly implemented, causing devastating economic and health consequences and deaths among the most vulnerable residents of our community.
During the current deliberation of the U.S. Congress and the White House for a second stimulus package of financial relief measures, there is a threat of further exclusion of the neediest – especially immigrants without defined status – from receiving any stimulus relief compensation yet again. There is a threat of reductions on unemployment relief and other social programs for the poor like SNAP, while there is a proposition to give the largest portion of the financial stimulus to large corporations, just as we saw in the last round of relief measures.
An even more serious threat is that COVID-19 testing programs have not reached those who need them most. This is the case with agricultural workers who, due to the mobile nature of agricultural production, do not have access to the urban stations established for testing. There are neighborhoods far from the urban sites and disadvantaged neighborhoods within city limits where test operations have not arrived. The same is true in most rural communities surrounding El Paso. This means these communities are facing exclusion from sanitary measures, as well as health and medical care, to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
To complicate the situation, the federal government has threatened to cut funds to continue testing and at the same time is pushing for the reopening of activities and facilities such as schools, at a time when in our community, like in the rest of Texas, COVID-19 cases continue to increase at an alarming rate.
The opening of schools at a time of a surge in viral infection rates shows us that the protocols and measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus are not working. It would be irresponsible to move forward with school opening plans because it would put the lives of children, youth, teachers, school staff, and countless families at risk. On the other hand, the proposed alternative plan to resume public education through online classes should be a wake-up call for all, as it contains perverse intentions to accelerate the insatiable push for privatization of education that will deepen educational segregation and the exclusion of students from our most marginalized communities.
The ongoing situation of exclusion of the population’s most marginalized sectors should be a priority concern to our border society. We are all in the same boat. If we do not mobilize as a border community to stop the exclusion of the most vulnerable groups in our community, we will all pay the consequences in terms of increased economic hardships for the majority of the population, the further deterioration of public health and education, as well as more infections and increased deaths.
These exclusionary and dangerous plans require a call to action for our community, organizations, health centers, religious and social institutions, and all people of good will, to support our efforts to reduce the exclusion that has so severely hit the most vulnerable sectors.
Once again, we ask you to join us in this almost five-month effort to fight for the human rights of all, because today it is a fight for lives.
First, we ask you to continue supporting our Economic Emergency Fund “From People to People”, created to support the most excluded populations who have been
Secondly, we ask that you join our demand for safe education without exclusion. We are asking that school districts do not hurry to reopen school campuses with in-person education. Rather than following the example of the businesses that opened too soon earlier in this pandemic, schools should present a plan for virtual education where all districts ensure necessary resources are available to every student and class, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable, so they can have the quality education which is their right, and so they will not fall behind while having the necessary conditions for their health protection and safety.
Thirdly, we ask that the local, state, and federal government agencies provide necessary and full economic support so that everyone who is not able to work may have their basic needs met and can stay healthy to help us all overcome this crisis.
We have asked to meet with all the superintendents of the various school districts in the County of El Paso, as well as with members of various Boards of Trustees of the districts, to propose our recommendations for safe education which does not exclude anyone.
Once again, we ask you to accompany us in these efforts to ensure the human rights of every person, because today this is the struggle for the integrity of our border communities and for our lives.
Border Agricultural Workers Project
Border Network for Human Rights
Ministry of Peace and Justice of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso
This post was originally published on BORDER NETWORK FOR HUMAN RIGHTS.