Trenton, NJ – On Wednesday morning, New Jersey immigrant day laborers, worker centers and allies led over 50 cars in a “COVID-safe car protest” demanding Governor Murphy and state leaders provide emergency assistance to immigrant workers and families. Encircling the statehouse with banners on their cars reading “What About Us? — ¿Y Nosotros Que?” the groups call on state lawmakers to reject and address bigotry in the state and the exclusion of NJ immigrants from emergency relief.
The protest comes as faith, civil rights, immigrant and workers’ groups denounced NJ Assembly member Robert Auth’s mocking response to reports of workers becoming sick and dying across New Jersey. This week, the NJ legislature took initial steps to ensure that the state helps fill the gap between immigrants and life-saving assistance.
A broad coalition of faith, labor, and civil rights groups endorsed the call to action, including: American Friends Service Committee, Casa Freehold, CATA Farmworkers, Central Jersey DSA, Cosecha NJ, Faith in NJ, LALDEF, Laundry Workers Center, Make the Road NJ, National Day Laborer Organizing Network,National Domestics Workers Alliance, NJ Clergy Coalition for Justice, New Labor, Pax Christi, Unidad Latina en Acción NJ, Wind of the Spirit, and 32BJ.
Quotes from some of those organizations below, followed by background information and statistics about essential, excluded workers in New Jersey:
“Those of us working to help everyone make it through this pandemic must not be excluded from COVID19 relief funds. Immigrant workers, regardless of authorized immigrant status, work in healthcare, delivery, food processing, and other essential jobs that cannot be done from home. We have U.S. citizen spouses and children that depend on us. The federal government has purposely and punitively excluded us from financial relief. Our state legislature and Governor must step up and provide the relief our own tax dollars fund for everyone else,” said Wind of the Spirit member Gloria Elizabeth Blanco.
“Excluding New Jersey families with undocumented members from most forms of federal relief during this pandemic is not just cruel and unjust, but will make it harder for many of our communities to recover as they become more economically active again. We urge our state leaders to continue the great work they have been doing to support all our families, and help bridge the gap for mixed-status families, which include tens of thousands of essential workers doing back-breaking, dangerous work to allow the rest of us to stay safe at home.” Kevin Brown, Vice President and NJ State Director of 32BJ SEIU
“After paying taxes for 22 years with my ITIN, my husband, a native-born US citizen, and I, were both denied a stimulus check. We aren’t the only ones. It has left siblings across the state hungry, forced out of their homes, and jeopardizing their lives everyday to try to earn income. The federal government has failed us and now it is time for Governor Murphy to show the country we believe no New Jerseyan should be left to suffer.” – Gladys Arismendi , Faith in New Jersey leader
During this pandemic, undocumented workers and our families have to choose between risking our health, working in unsafe conditions without PPE or hazard pay, or losing the very income we rely on to feed our families,” said Norma Morales, a domestic worker and spokesperson for the Cosecha Movement in Lakewood, New Jersey. “The choice to risk dying of hunger or risk dying from COVID19 is no choice at all. We don’t have enough money to buy food for our children, and the government has denied us the right to emergency funding. That is why state funds are so critical.”
“Undocumented immigrants from New Jersey contribute approximately $604 million in state and local taxes in New Jersey each year and $1.1 billion in federal taxes. Morally and ethically, Governor Murphy and the state legislature must protect all of us” Betty Perez Unidad Latina en Acción NJ
“It is an inhumane irony that just as immigrant workers contributions to society increase during this pandemic, the abuses against us increase. We demand Gov. Murphy take into account the needs of retail laundromats workers and that NJ create a relief fund for all immigrants“ – Gloria Guerrero, member of Laundry Workers Center
“As we say in day laborer worker centers, only the people can save the people, so what about all of us in New Jersey Governor Murphy, y nosotros que?” – Jorge Torres of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)
As New Jersey quickly racks up more COVID-19 cases than most areas of the world, large segments of New Jersey’s workers and families are completely excluded from relief efforts. Undocumented workers, business owners, and their U.S. citizen children and spouses, were deliberately excluded from the largest federal stimulus in U.S. history.
A recent report found that 125,086 undocumented immigrants in New Jersey (one in four of the working age population) work in industries hardest hit by COVID-19, with the largest percentage of undocumented people working in retail, restaurant and personal services industries. Black and Latinx New Jerseyans make up a disproportionate number of positive COVID-19 tests and deaths. Undocumented immigrants in New Jersey pay $1.1. billion in federal taxes and $600 million in state and local taxes each year.
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