Among the illegal immigrants in the United States, the fear of the police… and the virus

Chez les clandestins aux États-Unis, la peur de la police... et du virus

LOS ANGELES | James cannot afford to stay in solitary confinement: the epidemic of the coronavirus that caused him to lose his server job at a restaurant in Los Angeles and it does not remain to him more in the pocket than two weeks rent and food.

The programs of social aid implemented by the government in the face of the economic crisis, which promises to do renfloueront not this Colombian 30 years. He resides illegally in the United States, without a work permit.

Moreover, James is not his real name. It is the one that appears on the fake social insurance card, that allows him, like thousands of other undocumented immigrants in the country, to get odd jobs paid by the hour to patrons looking little.

“I have to at least find the way to cover the rent and food, and in this situation, finding a job is complicated,” said to AFP the young man. Until then, he was earning US $400 per week, “the minimum necessary” to live.

Undocumented migrants in the United States have always lived in fear of deportation, particularly since the arrival in power of president Donald Trump, who has made the fight against illegal immigration one of its priorities for the election.

This anguish has now been added the fear of a pandemic that is spreading fast in the country and the precarious yet a little more.

Then I go to the hospital without health insurance? Am I likely to still be arrested by the police immigration? If I have recourse to emergency aid from the government, is that this will hurt my regularization?

This is the kind of questions that Luz Gallegos, of the NGOS supporting migrants TODEC, heard last weekend when it hosted a consultation session on legal at Perris, a city in the countryside, north of Los Angeles.

“The COVID-19 is an additional stress for a whole community, who does not trust the government”, she explains to AFP.

“All over again”

The main concern of illegal immigrants, mostly from Latin America in California, it is the rule introduced in the summer of 2019 by the president Trump, who refuses to aliens likely to become “burdens to society”, says dr. Gallegos.

Among the criteria taken into account to refuse to grant a regularisation, or even access to the american soil, one finds the use of social benefits such as subsidized care, but also the state of health of the applicant.

The services of immigration announced that foreigners undergo tests for detection of the coronavirus, or would be treated for this infection would not be penalized for their applications for naturalization or any other approach. The dreaded migration police also said it was postponing the arrest the time of the health crisis.

It is not enough to dispel the fear and the insecurity, ensures Luz Gallegos.

The United States has adopted an extensive emergency plan to provide support for workers financially affected by the coronavirus, sick or who have lost their jobs. But these aids are out of reach for some eleven million undocumented workers.

“We were told that there was no more work, they sent us a link to make an application for government assistance” in California, says James. “But I’ve read that it was for the Americans or those who were in good standing with the social Security”, he laments.

Half of the fifteen people who worked with James on his japanese restaurant do not have papers.

“I think the situation will become more difficult in two weeks, a month, when it will no longer be able to pay the bills,” said the young man, whose monthly rent amounts to 580 US$.

The government announced the freezing of evictions because of the health crisis, but this will only postpone the problem for James. He sees in the immediate future to be no other solution than to become a delivery driver for restaurants, with an old car that he was able to buy it here is two weeks.

“After two years in this country, I had arrived at a point where I had the impression that it was put in place, as I progressed. And the coronavirus fell down…”, loose there. It is now waiting to “start from scratch”.


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