Immigrants are dying for the US on the frontlines of this new war—but who cares?
Felicia Persaud | 4/16/2020, midnight
On the strangest Good Friday in my lifetime, with no actual church to attend, I felt moved by the spirit to listen to Bob Marley’s “War” again, after the lyrics popped into my head.
“War in the east/War in the west/War up north/War down south/War war.”
The lyrics are as pertinent today as when Marley penned them in 1976, more than a decade after Haile Selassie spoke those same words at the U.N. in 1963.
Except, there is a new war being fought in America and around the world against not a physical enemy but an unseen virus, COVID-19. And again, as they are in the U.S. military, immigrants are on the frontlines of this new war.
They are the new soldiers in their respective fields—the cops and firefighters, the paramedics and ambulance/ambulette drivers, the staff in hospitals and nursing homes, the nurses and doctors, the MTA workers, the airport and other security officers, the grocery store workers, the restaurant workers, the maintenance workers, the warehouse workers, the delivery staffers and more.
And as with any war, many are dying and becoming the new unseen martyrs on this new domestic battlefield, as they lack proper equipment to battle this new enemy. While it is not yet known how many immigrants in the medical or essential fields have died so far, the initial data is shocking.
In New York City alone, Hispanic immigrants now make up 34% of the city’s deaths from COVID-19, compared with 29% of the population, according to the new data published by Politico. Neighborhood data from city officials also shows that Corona, Queens, home to a large percentage of Latin American immigrants, now has the most coronavirus cases of any area in the city, with 1,659. That’s those who have been tested!
Blacks now comprise 28% of deaths from COVID-19 in NYC, compared with 22% of the population. But it is unknown how many are immigrants from the Caribbean or Africa as the data did not deep dive into nationality.
Of the fatalities known so far from this study, 521 of the dead are Latinos, 428 Blacks, 424 whites and 112 Asians.
From what News Americas has been able to cull to date, more than 50 Caribbean immigrants have passed away from the virus in New York City alone in the past few weeks.
They include medical frontline immigrant soldiers such as Haitian immigrant Dr. Ronald Verrier, a trauma critical care surgeon practicing in the Bronx; Trinidadian immigrant Sieunarine Ramnarine, an employee at DJ Ambulette Service in the Bronx; Guyanese immigrants Prea Nankieshore, 34, a former clerk who registered patients in the emergency room at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital in NYC, and Oliver Cyrus, 61, a MTA bus operator for 21 years, who lived in Brooklyn.
As some may know, of the more than 150 million health care sector workers in America, immigrants make up nearly 26 million, or 17%, according to a 2017 Migration Policy Institute study. Of those specialties, 28% of physicians and surgeons were immigrants, and 24% of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides were immigrants.