Health disparities are not new, nor are the policies needed to combat them. If you’re like me, when ‘Rona hit, I knew the worst was coming—the rich would profit, and the poor, BI-POC (black, indigenous, people of color) would die. As these predictions became facts, I could only work harder to assert the voices and daily experiences of my communities in the narrow halls of power where decisions are being made at both lightning speeds and unhurried paces, depending on who will benefit.
On April 17, Governor Polis established the COVID-19 Health Equity Response Team, headed by the Office of Health Equity. This group will tackle historic and systemic inequities to prevent the gaps from widening and save lives. I have the honor of being appointed to this team, and have also been serving as the Chair of Colorado’s Health Equity Commission. I bring more than a decade of grassroots organizing, policy development, and political advocacy to this work. When I show up, my marching orders come from our members, to whom I yield the rest of this post. Here are the voices of some of our immigrant members, who are bearing a large portion of the COVID-19 burden:
“I am stressed by all of what is happening and it stresses me a lot to be trapped. And not being able to work is affecting my health and the health of my family. Unfortunately, now I am not going to be able to pay my rent because I am one of the families that lives day-to-day with our income.”
- Beatriz, Fort Morgan
“Well, the truth is, now I have been affected economically because it’s been a week without working because they let me go. They let me go for having a fever.”
- Irma, Fort Morgan
“My husband was deported in November and left me alone...My kids are 18 and 16...the three of us were working before the pandemic and a month ago my daughter’s job was canceled and my son and I were let go also...Our financial status is not good because we all lost our job and I, as the head of the house, have to pay the rent, the bills, the food. We live day-to-day and now only I am here...what I say sincerely is I need my partner to help. We are undocumented. It’s difficult. Sometimes we’ve had 2 or 3 jobs, but now although even if I wanted one, there isn’t one really.”
- Yolanda, Pueblo
“I’m in the very unenviable spot of being denied a stimulus check because my husband is undocumented. But the money isn’t my most pressing concern. I was laid off two weeks ago and my husband, who underwent a kidney transplant last year, is now kicked off my insurance. I’m in relatively good health so I can probably go without insurance until I find another job (as long as I don’t get COVID) but my husband needs specialized follow-up care and anti-rejection meds. He is very high risk. I’m not sure what either of us will do without insurance. For now, I’m hustling to find another job, any job. The unemployment I’ve paid into my whole adult life is useless if I can’t provide insurance for my family.”
- Valerie, Pueblo
Many of our members are fighting for survival, physically and financially. Our office in Fort Morgan is near a refrigerated truck for corpses and countless families have lost jobs and don’t qualify for financial assistance because of their status or the status of a family member. I have two important asks for you today:
- If you have the gift of your health and the privilege to spare some of the financial assistance you have received, please consider donating to the Immigrant Relief Fund. We are redistributing funds to immigrant families in Pueblo and Fort Morgan to support their immediate needs. 100% of your gift will go directly to immigrants in these communities, and immigrants themselves are leading the nomination and decision process to select recipients.
- Please take three minutes to contact your Senators about the HEROES Act the House passed recently. For the first time in one of the several stimulus bills that has passed, there is financial support for immigrant taxpayers, and they need to hear our voices on this important issue.
Thank you in advance for your solidarity in this work!