Ten Golden Rules for Mexican and Latin American Immigrant Survival from COVID-19 in the US
Ten Golden Rules for Recent Mexican and Latin American Immigrants in the US for these times of Emergency Due to the Coronavirus and Anti-immigrant Sentiment of the Trump Era.
An Essay by Bernardo Méndez Lugo:
Director Ejecutivo de la Fundación ProMigrante @América Sin Muros – Fundación para Migrantes
1. Immigrants with an irregular migration status in the U.S. are living through one of the most complicated and dangerous times. The “Trump Era” has spread anti-immigrant sentiment; a challenge that has been augmented by the threatening effects of coronavirus.
Efforts to contain the virus have placed the country in a quarantine that could last for three to four more months, depending on how the president chooses to proceed. Mismanagement of the crisis by Trump can produce a victory for the Democratic presidential candidate.
The health emergency triggered by Covid-19 (coronavirus) has placed Mexican and Latin Americans with irregular migration status, permanent residents, and even naturalized citizens at a serious risk of losing their jobs.
On this date, April 9th, 2020, the fast spread of those infected in the United States and the containment measures of restriction and social distancing, are preventing the work activities of millions of people.
President Trump’s alleviation measures do not generally include the undocumented population.
The Mexican and Latino undocumented communities are at a high vulnerability health risk. This is due to the fact that a high number of families are without medical coverage and fear seeking basic health services due to the danger of deportation.
Health vulnerability is greater for older adults and young undocumented workers who tend to live in precarious, overcrowded housing. Furthermore, this group lack access to preventive health and hygiene information.
The Mexican consular network, located in 50 cities across the U.S, must redouble communication efforts–through all means possible–to provide guidance on preventive measures, like social distancing, cleaning surfaces, constant hand-washing with soap, and isolation of older adults from contact with children and grandchildren, etc.
For their part, Mexican and Latino community organizations are focusing on assisting the most vulnerable families, looking to generate resources and find alternatives for those without unemployment insurance or other benefits, told Artemio Arreola, Michoacan community leader in Chicago to @Americasinmuros.
Permanent residents and citizens are candidates for the aid and support packages announced by President Trump.
Details should be sought through your local immigrant, consular and religious organizations.
In some states with significant representation of Latinos and people of Mexican-descent in state and federal legislatures such as, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida and New York, the offices of legislators provide guidance and support for people in urgent need of food or medical attention.
Commenting on the bi-national economic and employment impact of coronavirus, Oaxacan leader, Felipe H Lopez stated: “Today, as thousands of Mexicans in the U.S., especially Oaxacans (and obviously thousands of Mexicans), lose their jobs due to the closure of restaurants and other services, it will not only affect families living in the United States, but their communities of origin. ”
“Many Mexican communities depend almost entirely on remittances and now with the hundreds of thousands without work, they will no longer be able to send remittances. I don’t know what the state and federal governments are doing to mitigate this negative effect, ” explained Lopez.
“We are more than 2 million Oaxacas who live abroad, and last year, we exceeded 1600 million dollars that we send in family remittances (equivalent to around 40% of the state budget). Likewise, Mexico, as a nation, received 36 million dollars. If this continues, I hope that state and local governments have a contingency plan to cushion the lack of liquidity, which is estimated to experience a drop in remittances totaling, between 25 and 30% of the total. ”
“For Oaxaca, migration is a social escape valve that helps maintain a relative social tranquility,” adds Felipe H López.
For these reasons, all possible precautions must be taken by the most vulnerable recent immigrants in the United States: As soon as you arrive in a U.S. city, you should contact the nearest consulate, remember that Mexico has 50 consular offices in the United States.
Once you are in the consulate, ask for guidance through the “Health,” windows. For legal and immigration advice, meet with a staff member in the “Department of Protection,” which is currently operating as a Legal and Immigration Support Center.
Dr. Marcia Campos informs me from Berkeley, CA, that “Univision and all the Spanish media in the San Francisco Bay Area, are quoting local authorities saying that undocumented people can access public health services without fear.”
We must investigate whether in other states, such as Arizona and Georgia, the same opportunity for public health access for undocumented people exists.
To find out the addresses, telephone numbers and emails of consular officials, visit the Mexican Foreign Relations website: (http://www.sre.gob.mx).
For migrants from Central American and South American countries, please consult your consulates, community organizations and defenders of immigrant rights. On the subject of health, if your consulate is far away, visit the Health section of the nearest Mexican Consulate. They will guide you.
All Mexican consulates have personnel assigned for the protection and defense of human rights; access to health and labor rights of Mexicans; and the prioritization of the most vulnerable workers.
If you are returning to Mexico, temporarily or permanently, keep in mind that you will need an official photo identification, preferably from a consular office that can be obtained from the nearest Mexican Consulate.
It is recommended that people who are not going to travel DO NOT show up to send-off or welcome family members at airports; it is preferable that they stay at home; understand that there is a risk of inspection, especially if the family member who travels does not have adequate documentation or has insufficient documentation. An extensive review could be generated that may affect family members coming to the airport. In addition, with the emergence of the coronavirus, it is best to stay at home.
A current element of risk that did not exist before the “Trump Era,” is extensive inspections for permanent residents who have traveled in recent years to the seven vetoed countries or countries considered “enemies” of the US. This is especially likely for those born in any of these countries, but may also include permanent residents who have traveled to the mentioned countries.
Presently, due to coronavirus, all the countries of the European Union and Great Britain have been quarantined, and the US border with Canada has also been closed. We suggest that you do not travel abroad during this period (next 3 months, April to June 2020). If you are a permanent resident, this could cause problems for you to return to the US, even if you are a naturalized US citizen. All US Consuls in border cities in northern Mexico are asking US citizens not to leave their homes and not to travel to Mexico.
Random phone and laptop searches may occur when they are linked to international travel or for other events that, in the opinion of the immigration authority, pose a risk to US national security.
The United States has been on permanent alert after September 11, 2001, and the President Trump administration has taken extreme measures with the veto of entry to people from seven Arab countries and those with an ongoing anti-terror war. Immigrants should note that it is a federal crime to carry false documentation and penalties involve jail time.
There is currently a kind of veto for the 26 countries of the European Union and Great Britain due to coronavirus; similarly, for Asian countries, and other continents.
Avoid getting involved in minor misdemeanors, like traffic violations, and under no circumstances, take merchandise or small items from supermarkets.
Remember that the moment the police investigate you for a routine or minor matter, it could turn into a nightmare in this period of high, anti-immigrant sensitivity that has been surging since the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001. You can be seriously affected if you are without a work permit or in an irregular migratory situation. Your situation is very vulnerable.
2. If you do not have family or friends in the American city where you reside, read the newspapers, listen to the Spanish radio and watch the televised news to learn important information about possible immigration raids and checkpoints. Learn about best neighborhoods to live in, where to rent a room or house, local events and interesting announcements ,such as job vacancies. Avoid rumors or panic, and check before spreading “fake news” on the networks.
Churches are places to find advice and guidance even if you are not a believer. Get close to Latino businesses and look for people who speak Spanish; their advice may be important to the newcomer. If you do not have an Internet connection, visit a public library that generally has free Internet access where you can read about immigration information and find news of your interest. Avoid fraudulent people who offer you work permits or legal residence. Visit the Protection Department of your Consulate to find out.
3. To the eyes of the police, migration or any authority: “it is a thousand times better to be undocumented than with false documents.” There are serious prison consequences for people who are caught with false documents. The undocumented person is expelled from the United States. If he is an undocumented, repeat offender, he could be imprisoned for several months, depending on the circumstance and the place where he is detained.
4. Always remember that you are very vulnerable, and you should follow the laws of the United States and the state where you reside, to the letter. Always wear seat belts in your vehicle, never drink alcoholic beverages when driving, respect speed limits, and always be careful to follow traffic signals.
If you are stopped by the police, you are at greater risk for a simple traffic violation, such as not using turn signals or missing a break light in your vehicle. Remember that in many cities in the US the police work together with the immigration authorities and a minor traffic incident can be converted into deportation order.
5. Be discreet and always take precautions: preferably, do not stay up late, do not drive at night if you do not need to, don’t be a loud neighbor, don’t have guests over past 10 p.m. Given the coronavirus emergency, it is better to stay home without guests.
Be a discreet and friendly neighbor; do not verbally harass women on the street; a simple “compliment” to a person you do not know, may lead to an arrest by the police. Insinuating or making sexual proposals to minors is highly penalized, even when the minor accepts or sympathizes with “advances” or flirting with an adult.
Don’t litter or leave trash in the hallway or yard that could annoy your neighbors. Never leave grocery carts abandoned in your parking lot or street.
Show that you are a person without blemish and superior behavior. Otherwise, the police could come to your home and affect your peace of mind.
6. If you are living with your family, it is very important that you never leave children under the age of 12 alone in your home or car; this is against the law. Do not mistreat or hit your spouse or children.
Child abuse has severe penalties; undocumented or legal residents can be deported, while those affected who are still undocumented, if abused, could obtain certain protections from deportations.
Pay special attention to the health of older adults, particularly in this health emergency. The older adult is very vulnerable, especially Mexican and Latin American seniors, due to high rates of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, kidney and cardiovascular problems. The spread of coronavirus can be fatal. Practice all recommended hygiene measures.
7. Not everything is lost to be able to stay, legally, in the US: The person who marries a citizen or resident can obtain legal papers, (it will be necessary that the foreign fiance who marries in the United States to be of legal status; if you are without documents and you want to marry your boyfriend or girlfriend with US citizenship, check with your consulate before you get married). It is important for the fiance to apply for a fiance visa through immigration; in general, the undocumented person has to leave the United States and return with that visa to get married.
Do not participate in simulated marriages. You could be arrested and subject to jail. (At this time, the procedures for all types of visas are suspended in all US consulates in the world).
8. The person who lives temporarily in the US can take advantage of their stay to study and prepare. It is never too late to learn English or a new trade. If you have a high school or technical degree completed (including technical or secretarial high school), research the requirements to pursue a career or study English in schools authorized to process a student visa. In this health emergency you can access books, courses and labor certifications from your cell phone or tablet.
In this moment of necessary isolation, it is worth getting a laptop, tablet or even your cell phone to study and prepare, there are many online courses.
It is worth seeking online conferences on preventive health and first aid and becoming certified as a nursing assistant, two fields of increasing need and employment opportunity.
The most affordable schools are called, “Community College” or “Technical Institutes” which are free in some cities. With a letter of acceptance from a school, you would travel to your country of origin for a student visa, remember that the passport must be issued in your country of origin.
If you have a history of deportation and the immigration authority took your fingerprints, even with the acceptance of the community college or technical college, it is very likely that your visa will be denied. Look for online courses and seminars known as “webinars.”
After the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, the possibility of obtaining a student visa is more difficult since the requirements that must be met have increased.
By decision of the California Government, undocumented youth who have completed their last three years of High School in California may be admitted to state universities and colleges paying tuition as residents. This measure has been implemented recently in other states.
In the city of Chicago, the first two years of Community College is free, which allows obtaining an “associate” diploma, making it easier to obtain a job, but it is still key to obtain a work permit.
9. The recent immigrant who has professional studies or background in small business has the opportunity to obtain various types of visa.
We already mentioned the student visa which can include the entire family with a dependent visa, pending the demonstration of financial solvency to the school or educational institution that grants the acceptance letter and immigration forms that will be presented at a US consulate in the country of origin of the future student.
There are many types of visas and opportunities.
Qualified engineers of all kinds can apply for the H-IB visa, in certain situations there are opportunities for teachers.
In the case of workers without school certificates but who know a job well, it is convenient for them to locate the Labor Certification and Competence Commission of their country of origin to obtain a labor certification.
You can also find information about the Secretaria de Educacion Publica in this site.
Consulates working through community projects and community affairs offer certification programs for chefs and restaurant workers in partnership with health authorities in many states and cities in the US.
For families returning to Mexico, educational transfer of school documents for children and youth can be expedited.
A recent reform to the educational re-validation law in Mexico now allows more ease in the validating process for studies done in the US, for students who return to Mexico.
You can also find out about labor certifications through the Ministry of Labor in the capital of your home state. With an official labor certification, your employer in the US will have a better chance of obtaining a work permit for you, but it is important to have no record or history of deportation.
10. The recent immigrant with a small business background, who has or has had a company registered in Mexico, could benefit from a “NAFTA” now “T-MEC” visa or the Free Trade Agreement while it is in force and the Trump administration maintains the terms of the Treaty in the “T-MEC” visas.
Other Latin American countries have similar agreements and facilities, such as the cases of the Central American countries through CAFTA and Chile, in their free trade agreement with the US. Consult an immigration attorney, preferably those suggested by the Mexican consular network.
Some nonprofit community organizations give free phone counseling. Negotiate so the first consultation is free or low cost. Do some research before hiring an attorney; ask at your consulate or a recognized Latino service agency.
Given the growing expansion of coronavirus in the United States and the imminent contagion of hundreds of thousands of compatriots, the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Mexico has issued a call to our countrymen not to travel to Mexico and a similar call has been made by the Health authorities.
Scenarios of possible deaths of the Latino and Mexican population due to coronavirus: The organization @AgendaMigrante citing sources from the White House estimates that the Covid-19 pandemic could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 people in the #United States if the current restrictions are met, compared to 1.5 2.2 million deaths that could occur if no radical action is taken by President Trump.
From @Americasinmuro we ask: of the deaths anticipated in the two scenarios, how many will be Mexican or of Mexican origin?
Our forecast in the first scenario: From 10 to 20 thousand Mexicans may die among them between 3 and 6 thousand Mexicans in an irregular migratory situation (undocumented). Many of them based in large cities, such as Los Angeles and among them, agricultural day laborers.
In the second and most gloomy scenario: We estimate death tolls between 150,000 and 220,000 Mexicans and Latin Americans in the United States, of which between 30,000 and 60,000 would be undocumented, including Central Americans. In the second scenario, it is necessary to foresee that despair and lack of economic resources, unemployment could drive at least one million nationals to return to Mexico, not only the undocumented, but also legal and naturalized residents (while the crisis in the US is passing) as long as the outlook in Mexico is perceived to be safer and with a lower number of affected people.
The following three weeks (April 9 to 28, 2020) are key for the US and Mexico. Some experts from both countries point out that community contagion is unstoppable and both countries could lose the battle against Covid19, with the development of an immunity taking some time.
Let’s keep an eye on the development of the pandemic and its impact on the health of Latino immigrants and their jobs. The months of May and June will be very critical.
Bernardo Méndez Lugo | Mexico
A Mexican Diplomat retired, he has been executive director of Promigrant Foundation Americasinmuros.org based in Mexico City since March 2017, with a worldwide network of volunteers in more than 100 cities. He was founder Professor at Universidad Autónoma Metrópolitana Xochimilco campus and did teaching & research for 20 years. In 1990, he joined the Mexican Foreign Service and was Consul in Montreal, Atlanta, San Francisco, Tucson, San Salvador and Chicago. He has published hundreds of articles and coauthored more than ten books and has been international Consultant for UN PAHO-WHO for public health, World Bank, OECD and UNIDO. He has delivered courses, workshops and lectures in many countries and Mexico. He is currently giving lectures on Covid-19 and international migration. Twitter: @berniemendez. Correo personal: [email protected]