We are members of New York’s Mexican-American community and two of the more than 300,000 Mexican immigrants who call New York State home. Our community is diverse, hailing from thirty-two multiple states throughout Mexico and representing dozens of indigenous communities with their own unique languages and customs. The Mexican community of New York includes artists, teachers, day-laborers, public officials, and the health aides, grocery clerks, and delivery workers who are deemed essential during the COVID-19 crisis yet ignored by the government’s response to the pandemic.
As has been widely reported, due to long standing inequalities and structural racism against Black and brown communities, the Mexican and Latino community of New York has been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and now represents over a third of all fatalities throughout the State. The toll on the Mexican community is visible at the funeral homes in neighborhoods throughout the five-boroughs where large Mexican communities reside. These communities include the crises’ epicenter in Corona and Jackson Heights, Queens, the neighborhoods of Morris Park, Allerton, Mount Hope in the Bronx and the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Borough Park and Bensonhurst.
Throughout this pandemic we have heard countless stories of loved ones falling ill, losing their livelihoods, and having family members pass. Among the many painful moments brought on by this crisis, few stories are more tragic than those from families who have lost loved ones, sought public support, and been told that no aid is available and that they and their families now have to fend for themselves.
While we are now all too familiar with the federal government’s disdain towards immigrants, and the Mexican immigrant community in particular, we have also seen a similar disregard to our community from local New York City and state agencies. We have heard multiple reports of monolingual Spanish-speakers being denied medical attention at New York City hospitals, know of dozens of stories of funeral homes price-gouging families in need charging as much as $8,000 for a cremation, and received hundreds of pleas for financial support for families who have lost their livelihoods but left behind by government. In response, Mexican-led nonprofits and Latino organizers have created crowdfunding campaigns to provide emergency funds and burial assistance to support those in need.
The Mexican government has also failed its citizens living in the United States. Over the years, Mexican nationals in the U.S. have come to rely on the Mexican government’s support to bury loved ones and send their remains back home. During this moment of crisis, where the death toll among the Mexican community has been so severe, we have been appalled by the Mexican government’s inability to timely send remains back to Mexico and their lack of support members seeking assistance with burial expenses.
Today, as Americans celebrate Mexican culture and the Battle of Puebla on Cinco de Mayo, we write to ask all who love and celebrate our traditions to show a similar appreciation for the people whose culture you are consuming. We write to demand that public officials recognize the economic contributions of Mexican immigrants and New York’s undocumented community by supporting undocumented New Yorkers through policies that will directly benefit them. This includes:
• Providing undocumented New Yorkers left out of the recent Federal Stimulus (US CARES Act) with direct cash assistance;
• Allowing undocumented New Yorkers to access burial funds currently inaccessible through New York City’s Human Resources Administration and New York State’s Department of Health; and
• Creating a dedicated fund to support the cash-based, immigrant-owned small businesses, left out of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.
When New York and the rest of the United States begins to reopen, and its restaurants, hotels, farms, and health clinics seek to recruit staff and hire Mexican employees willing to work some of toughest jobs in our economy, we ask that you remember our the loss of life and injustices that were inflicted on the Mexican immigrant community and how our policies excluded the very people that will be critical to the American recovery.
This Cinco de Mayo, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are sick at home and afraid to seek medical attention, going hungry, and in mourning. Our government is responsible.