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Undocumented workers go on hunger strike for COVID-19 relief in New Jersey

Margarita Rodriguez was unemployed for months last year after losing her job in the warehouse due to the coronavirus pandemic. She has since found work in a delicatessen, putting her health at risk to support her three children. But since she is undocumented, she has not received a penny in government financial assistance for COVID-19.

Today, Rodriguez is one of more than 30 undocumented workers in New Jersey who have been on hunger strike for nine days, demanding that the state provide COVID-19 relief funds to excluded workers.

“We are contributing our work, our money to the state – it is unfair that they leave us out of the stimulus,” said Rodriguez, 40, noting that she and other undocumented workers pay taxes.

“As an essential worker, we are very exposed, interacting with people on a daily basis,” the mother of three said in Spanish. “We are at risk.”

While immigrants have been on the front lines of the pandemic as essential workers, undocumented people across the country have not been eligible for unemployment insurance due to their immigration status and have also been excluded from the three stimuli federal government payments.

Organizers of the immigrant rights group Make the Road New Jersey were demanding that the state pay unemployment benefits of $ 600 per week to undocumented workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and one-time payments of $ 2,000 to those who have been excluded from the federal stimulus.

Last week, lawmakers Neighbor New York passed a law – after weeks of similar hunger strikes by undocumented migrants workers – created a $ 2.1 billion excluded workers fund to make one-time payments of up to $ 15,600 to undocumented workers who have lost their jobs or income due to COVID-19.

A spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) told HuffPost his administration “is exploring ways to further help members of our immigrant community during this difficult time,” but has failed provided details on whether or to what extent the state would provide direct aid. give to undocumented workers.

Earlier this week, the governor’s office suggested committing some $ 40 million to such a fund during an appeal to the organizers, much less than what the workers ask for the state nearly half a million undocumented migrants immigrants.

In February, California granted relief to undocumented migrants workers in the form of one-time payments of $ 600 to those who pay taxes.

Illegal immigrants immigrants are among the hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout. They are overrepresented in fields that have seen mass layoffs due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the restaurant and hospitality industries. Undocumented workers are also significant portions of these considered essential on the front line of the pandemic – including cleaners – who risk their lives to work while millions more in the United States can stay at home.

As the death toll from the virus exceeds 565,000 in the United States, Latinxes and blacks are about three times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than whites, and twice as likely to die.

“Keep raising your voice,” Rodriguez told his undocumented colleagues. “Enough of being silent. As immigrant workers, we matter too. ”

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