About a dozen refugees from Afghanistan are making masks in New Jersey to help protect against Covid-19. So far they have produced more than 2,000 $10 organic fabric masks. The masks are sold online through Global Grace Marketplace (https://global-grace-marketplace-cafe-square.site/) and fair trade stores across the country.
As the pandemic shut down the economy and furloughed refugees who had just started working, Interfaith Rise (http://www.interfaithrise.org), a church-based resettlement agency, began distributing sewing machines to those who had sewing experience. One of the refugees developed a prototype and a refugee-only work force was formed. Their sewing pays about $15.00 an hour and has helped to connect these new Americans to their new world.
Thelma Gomez, a member of the Vermont migrant community and an organizer with Migrant Justice states that grueling work schedules, limited access to medical care, language barriers, and cramped housing all contribute to farmworkers’ vulnerability to Covid19. “Multiple workers share the same room and if one gets sick there’s no way for them to self-isolate or to keep others from getting sick,” she says.
In addition, undocumented workers don’t receive stimulus checks from the Federal government nor do they qualify for unemployment. If a dairy farm closes or downsizes – and many farms have been struggling during the pandemic – these workers may find themselves homeless. Yet they are essential to the production of milk on dairy farms throughout the state.
Migrant Justice continues to represent the rights of farmworkers and to fight for their dignity, and many other organizations throughout Vermont are also involved, contributing transportation, food and clothing, and language support. The struggle continues.
According to an investigation by The New York Times and The Marshall Project, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has become both a domestic and global spreader of the coronavirus. Even as lockdowns and other measures are being taken around the world to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, ICE has continued to detain people, move them from state to state, and deport them.
Detainees are exposed to Covid-19 in cramped and unsanitary detention centers, and so far ICE has confirmed at least 3000 coronavirus-positive detainees, though testing has been limited. Further spreading the virus, detainees who may be infected are often moved from facilities in one state to another. And from March to June more than 200 deportation flights carrying migrants, some of them ill with coronavirus, have left the U.S. for their home countries. So far governments of 11 countries have confirmed that deportees returned home with Covid19. As of early July, ICE said that it was still able to test only a sample of migrants before sending them home. Yet deportation flights continue.
Since March the Trump administration has been quietly violating a federal; anti-trafficking law by turning back unaccompanied children at the southern border. Many of the children are younger than 13. So far more than 20000 have been sent back to their countries of origin. With the pandemic as an excuse, unaccompanied children have been denied their right to protective custody and the chance to tell their stories to an asylum officer or judge. Our government is returning children targeted by gangs back to their tormentors, and abused children back to their abusers. But public health experts say that Refugee Resettlement shelters are nearly empty and there is plenty of room to quarantine children for 14 days. In addition Homeland Security has told parents in family detention that if they’re worried about the coronavirus they can get their children released. This is an untenable choice for parents between keeping children in conditions of dangerous contagion or being separated from them, perhaps permanently.