I write from a position of privilege. I’m at my desk, typing on a computer hooked up to the internet, the lifeline for many who now work at home. I’m able to do my job, teaching students through videos and zoom conversations. Yes, moving courses online in a hurry is difficult and problematic, but I’m still getting paid, and last I checked I still have health insurance. Social distancing is a luxury; I’m sure most people don’t see it that way, we want life to go back to normal so we can do normal things. This crazy pandemic is an enormous inconvenience, but for some it’s much more.
The coronavirus makes it easy to forget about undocumented immigrants. Many pay taxes, but none will get a government stimulus check. (See this article.) Many people have lost jobs, a painful, life shattering, consequence regardless of status. For undocumented workers, however, there is no safety net, there is no possibility of an unemployment benefit. Few believe people will be turned away from receiving necessary medical care, regardless of status, but most people don’t live with the added anxiety of deportation or family separation as a factor in deciding whether or not to go to the hospital.
The current pandemic makes the undocumented even more invisible. Many will say “Now is not the time to talk about the politics of immigration!” Our attention is consumed with the impact of the coronavirus on our lives. Churches are busy putting services online and finding creative ways to care for members. I want to suggest, however, that the current pandemic demonstrates the need for immigration reform. Like a blacklight, the pandemic reveals the hidden cracks in our social and cultural life that render people invisible.
The time for outdated protectionist ideology is over. We live in a global community; death and disease have shown they don’t care about national borders, and it’s time for love and compassion to do the same. Now is the time to demand change—for the sake of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and for the well being of our communities.