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Unity and Compassion During COVID-19

I write today, first and foremost, hoping you, your family and your community are safe and healthy. These are deeply unsettling and challenging times that require us to extend kindness to ourselves and to each other.

Like each of you, I hope my family and friends are safe and healthy and that we’re doing enough so that we can beat this pandemic and get back to normal as soon as possible. Once we instituted mandatory telework last week, I immediately jumped on a plane to help my parents in California. I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility and resources to make this decision. Many of the people we care about do not.

Now, as I sit with my immigrant parents watching the news, I realize our worries are greater than our health.

We all hope that this crisis is not politicized to further divide the country. Yet over our nation’s history, and over today’s airwaves and screens, we see how “the other” is often scapegoated, sowing more fear where unity and compassion are needed.

At the Forum, we are committed to being a strong voice for the value of immigrants to the nation and ensuring that they are not forgotten as policymakers respond to this health crisis.

COVID-19 makes no distinction between citizens, permanent residents, visa holders and people who are undocumented. That’s why local, state and national leaders need to prioritize the health and safety of all community members — including immigrants and refugees. We know, as you do too, that if these vulnerable populations are healthy, that means we all will be safer.

Trust in public programs and services at the local level will be increasingly important over the coming weeks, underscoring the importance of ensuring everyone — regardless of immigration status — feels safe seeking medical advice. Policies like the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule should be suspended so that immigrants do not fear penalization for seeking assistance.

The administration should also limit enforcement actions, which increase fear and erode trust in communities, and put in place necessary measures to protect immigrants, judges, officers and staff in detention facilities and immigration courts.

As Congress works to address this crisis, it should ensure that any economic solutions that it enacts help all workers, including all immigrants. Workers in all of our communities are suffering the economic impacts of this pandemic, and if significant parts of the population are deliberately left out of the economic solutions, all Americans will be impacted.

As our government moves to temporarily bar asylum seekers and others from seeking protection in the United States in response to this pandemic, we need to invest in the capacity of UNHCR and international relief organizations so they have the ability to provide shelter for those fleeing violence or instability at home. Our immigration policies should not create health crises in places where refugees and asylum seekers are sheltered.

Finally, we remain acutely aware that many immigrants are on the frontlines responding to this pandemic as doctors, nurses, home care workers, cleaners, cashiers and more. Both our national policies and our community responses should allow these workers to do their jobs without fear of a loved one being deported or a medical visit jeopardizing their status.

Whether it is in the family room of my parents’ home, your dinner table, or communities across the country, this crisis underscores the reality that as a nation, we are only as secure as our most vulnerable populations.

Together, we can build a response centered in unity rather than fear.
Stay safe, stay healthy,

Ali Noorani
Executive Director
National Immigration Forum

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