Working-class immigrant and Black and Brown communities are suffering disproportionately from the COVID-19 crisis, and it has revealed deep, lasting inequities and a complete lack of leadership.
As new health department data shows, communities like Corona in Queens and the South Bronx have some of the highest virus death rates in all of New York. At the same time, a new survey by Make the Road New York shows that among working-class immigrants, every 9 out of 10 households has had a reduction in income and are worried about income.
We are faces of these statistics. We are both mothers who have lost all our income during this crisis. We have not received government support, and we do not know how we are going to be able to cover the rent.
We know that we are not only experiencing a public health crisis, but one of inequality and structural racism. Our communities have always had the worst public health rates, given the difficulty of accessing health insurance and adequate medical care. We have also suffered from a lack of affordable and healthy housing, many times having to live with overcrowding and unsafe conditions.
All of this is the result of decades of a lack of political leadership, both at the federal and state levels, where many times our communities have been left without anyone who really fights for our rights and needs. With just a month to go until the New York primary, we are seeking true representation for our communities. We need leaders who are fighting for a true recovery for all, and not just for band-aids to respond to the crisis and then try to return to the status quo.
We need leaders in Washington who will fight to ensure that immigrants, regardless of immigration status, are included in financial assistance and unemployment insurance. Until that happens, we need state leaders who will fight for New York to establish a $3.5 billion fund for excluded workers. And we need leaders at all levels who are going to fight to pay the rent and free our detained loved ones, who are at high risk of the virus.
We live in Yonkers in Westchester and Jackson Heights in Queens, and we’re excited that both of our communities finally have the opportunity to choose new leaders who will fight for that agenda.
In Westchester and the Bronx, Jamaal Bowman is a candidate for New York’s 16th Congressional District who founded a dynamic public school to counter educational inequality in his community. Day after day during this crisis, he has stood on the front lines with nurses demanding PPE and worked hard to make the voices of his community heard, while his opponent Elliot Engel has been out of state since at least March 27th.
In Western Queens, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas is running for state assembly in District 34, one of the most impacted areas in the entire country. Jessica has fought throughout her career for access to health for all, most recently as the Executive Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. In these months she has worked tirelessly to coordinate direct assistance to those in need–converting her campaign into a mutual aid effort–and advocate for her community.
Both represent the new generation of leadership that our communities need.
On Tuesday, June 23, we have the opportunity to choose fighters for a recovery for all. We have the opportunity to choose Jamaal Bowman and Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas.
Norberta Guerrero and Flaviana Linares are members of Make the Road Action, a community organization that builds political power rooted in immigrant and working-class communities of color, promotes progressive policy solutions, and strengthens the movement for justice through electoral and grassroots organizing. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadAct