Worker & Migrant Justice Response to the Coronavirus

With the United States already experiencing unprecedented levels of nativism, xenophobia, racial resentment, and dehumanization, we are very concerned the global pandemic, the imminent economic downturn, and the upcoming election will coalesce and create a perfect storm resulting in a full-scale human rights crisis with the potential significant loss of life.

This context only makes more acute the need for comprehensive migrant justice, and it underscores and highlights the urgency of sensible policy proposals presented below. An appropriate national response to the global pandemic must prioritize the health and safety of those who are most vulnerable, including immigrants. However, we fear that vulnerable populations including undocumented migrant workers, poor people, and refugees will be deemed acceptable collateral damage by forces that view them as less than human. At NDLON, we will do everything within our power to protect members of our community who might be at risk of being left behind in the days and weeks ahead.

For the safety of our families, neighbors, and loved ones, immigrant and non-immigrant alike, we call on local and national leaders to immediately adopt a plan for Worker & Migrant Justice as part of the Coronavirus response.

Descarga la información en Español aquí: PDF

The time is now to:

1. STOP ICE and CBP :

Enact an immediate moratorium on all ICE and CBP enforcement (detentions and deportations) to allow families, communities, localities and states to develop and implement effective community-wide responses to this public health challenge. There is no greater way to exacerbate today’s crisis with ICE and CBP hell-bent on terrorizing communities, accelerating deportations, and increasing the detained population. Instead, funds and personnel should be reassigned and redeployed to CDC, FEMA, and other emergency needs.


Dismantle immigrant detention, concentration camps and programs such as MPP that exacerbate the public health dangers, and include a plan to return individuals to their families and receiving families. In response to COVID-19, other countries are proactively releasing thousands to their families. DHS was already unable to provide even basic sanitary conditions while deaths in their custody are mounting. Forcibly keeping tens of thousands in squalid conditions, while adding people despite the foreseeable consequences, is criminally negligent.


Emergency action plans for healthcare, testing, and vaccines must be freely available to all, including undocumented workers and families. From every level of government, healthcare entity, whether public or private, we must resist dehumanization in all of its forms, and proactively address and challenge racist exploitation of the pandemic. Stigmatizing individuals or excluding them from the US coronavirus response would constitute both a serious flaw in what can only be an “all hands on deck” social effort, and it would be a dark stain on the US society.


Paid sick leave and unemployment policies often exclude low wage immigrant workers whether explicitly due to legal status, or implicitly (through requirements related to employer size and duration of employment), forcing workers to stay on the job. Worse, worker health and safety requirements are often relaxed or ignored during a disaster. There is no excuse for exploiting workers or endangering their lives during a crisis. Worker protection policies must have broad coverage and enforcement in order to protect all workers who most need it, especially in industries such as construction, cleaning, restaurant, poultry, and others that rely on the labor of undocumented immigrant workers.


Safety net programs such as food stamps and unemployment insurance can be as inaccessible as airline bailouts to the undocumented and poorest. Immigrant workers and families should be able to access emergency aid programs without fear of retaliation or “public charge” repercussions. Immigrant worker and community organizations should be included in planning and implementation, to ensure that this relief reaches the community.