Things That Matter

Mexican Officials Point To Provision In USMCA That Safeguards Migrants’ Health

Healthcare is a universal right. However, it’s one that depends on your immigration status in the United States, unfortunately. This has become more evident with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine as many officials across the country are saying that they will not offer the vaccine to undocumented residents.

It’s long been known that the country’s Brown and Black residents have long suffered the consequences of inequality in the nation’s healthcare system. But now, as those very communities are hit the hardest by the pandemic, they’re being denied the one tool we have to help relieve the community’s suffering.

Update January 14, 2021

Mexican officials are ready to invoke parts of the North American trade agreement to ensure vaccines for undocumented migrants.

Earlier this month, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced that undocumented people will not be included in the vaccination plan. He has since attempted to at least partially walk back those comments. Mexico immediately raised the alarm and offered to help undocumented migrants in the U.S. receive the vaccine.

According to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has provisions about the health of migrant workers. In the agreement, which President Trump touts as his accomplishment, the countries have agreed to safeguard the lives of migrant workers.

Minister Ebrand is prepared to invoke the provision designed to protect vulnerable migrant workers. As stated in a press conference, the Mexican government is prepared to consider any effort not to vaccinate undocumented migrants in the U.S. a violation of the trade agreement.

Mexico’s AMLO offers to vaccinate migrants who are unlawfully living in the U.S.

Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), recently announced that he was ready to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to undocumented residents living in the United States.

“It’s a universal right. We would do it,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said before his regular daily press conference after the press asked him if Mexico would step up to help vaccinate undocumented migrants living in the U.S. – many of whom are Mexican nationals.

Although, like many of AMLO’s promises, he offered little in the way of details and many are rightfully skeptical of the promise given his government’s limited ability to deliver the vaccine to people within his own country. It also wasn’t clear which migrants in the U.S. would qualify under AMLO’s vaccine rollout.

AMLO announced his intentions after officials in Nebraska said undocumented residents wouldn’t be eligible.

AMLO raised the possible vaccination program after the governor of Nebraska said that undocumented residents of his state likely wouldn’t get vaccinated due to their immigration status.

“You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of that vaccine with that program,” Governor Ricketts said during a coronavirus briefing.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is a member of Trump’s Republican Party but his comments about workers in Nebraska’s meat-packing plants provoked criticism from public health and migrant advocates.

Roberto Velasco, a senior Mexican diplomat for North America, responded to Ricketts on Twitter. “To deprive undocumented essential workers of #covid19 vaccination goes against basic human rights,” he wrote on Twitter, including Ricketts’ Twitter handle and citing text from the U.N.’s declaration of human rights.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leader of pro-migrant progressives in the Democratic party of President-elect Joe Biden, also spoken out firmly against Ricketts’ statement.

“Imagine being so racist that you go out of your way to ensure that the people who prepare *your* food are unvaccinated,” she wrote on Twitter.

Undocumented residents fill many of the nation’s riskiest “essential” jobs.

Study after study have shown that most of the nation’s “essential workers” are people of color – with a large number being undocumented migrants. The same applies to the country’s meat-packing jobs.

According to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, it estimates 11% of Nebraska’s meat-packing workers – and 10% of the workers nationwide – lack legal immigration status.

Meanwhile, since the pandemic began, there have been sporadic yet severe outbreaks of COVID-19 among meat-packing plants in the U.S., helping spread the virus around rural America where the plants are concentrated.

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

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California Sets Vaccination Plan For Agricultural Workers During Next Phase

Brent Stirton / Getty Images

The world is racing to vaccinate everyone to put a stop to the relentless Covid-19 pandemic. In the U.S., states and counties are rolling out their own plans based on suggestions from health experts. California, home to the largest population of farmworkers, is making them a priority.

California has laid out their vaccination plan and farmworkers are being prioritized.

California is facing a relentless Covid-19 surge of infections, deaths, and hospitalizations. According to The New York Times, California has the second-highest level of infections per capita in the U.S. More than 30,000 people have died of Covid in California and the vaccination effort has been severely lagging.

California’s vaccination plan has been criticized for its very slow roll out.

According to the California Department of Public Health, more than 816,000 doses of the virus have been given to residents. There have been more than 2 million vaccine doses shipped to California. Currently, California, the most populated state in the country, is still in Phase 1A. Phase 1A is for healthcare workers and long-term care residents. The Vaccinate All 58 campaign claims that there are 3 million people in California in Phase 1A. Almost 40 million people live in California.

Activists have been calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to make sure that farmworkers are prioritized.

California is home to the largest concentration of farmworkers in the U.S. The Center for Farmworker Families claims that 500,000 to 800,000 farmworkers, or about 1/3 to 1/2 of the farmworker populations, live in California. Seventy-five percent of farmworkers in California are undocumented.

As the rest of the state was able to shelter in place, farmworkers did not stop working. They provided a necessary lifeline to the nation in keeping the food supply running. Farmworkers are more likely to contract Covid because of their living conditions. Studies show that the low wages that farmworkers are paid means that many live in crowded conditions.

READ: As The U.S. Rolls Out The COVID-19 Vaccine, What’s The Future Of Vaccine Access In Latin America?

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Nebraska Governor Says Undocumented Meatpacking Workers Aren’t Eligible For Vaccine

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Nebraska Governor Says Undocumented Meatpacking Workers Aren’t Eligible For Vaccine

MIKE THEILER / AFP via Getty Images

Vaccination plans are rolling out across the country as states race to vaccinate their populations against Covid-19. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts is taking a slightly different approach by excluding undocumented meatpacking plant employees.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts spoke to reporters about the state’s vaccination plan.

The governor caused a stir when discussing the overall plan to roll out the vaccine. Gov. Ricketts spoke about the needs to vaccinate workers in the meatpacking industry with the exception of undocumented workers.

“Again, you’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of the vaccine with that program,” Gov. Ricketts told reporters.

Meatpacking plant workers are included as essential workers are a slated to be vaccinated early on.

According to Gov. Ricketts’ briefing, meatpacking industry workers will be vaccinated in Phase 1B of the plan. They follow healthcare workers, utility workers, and educators on the list of Nebraskans to be vaccinated.

Immigration advocates are sounding the alarm over the governor’s words. The virus infects everyone and activists are calling on Nebraska to change its plan to vaccinate everyone living in the state.

Gov. Ricketts’ communication office tweeted out a statement trying to backtrack on the comments.

Nebraska is the first state to publicly state that undocumented residents will be intentionally excluded during the original vaccination plans. Each state has created its own plans for vaccinations with most following recommendations from the federal government to start with frontline workers.

Florida and Texas have focused more on inoculating the elderly population. Colorado originally decided to vaccinate prisoners before those with underlying health conditions but rewrote the plan after heavy criticism.

Don’t worry. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already raising her voice on the issue.

According to the Associated Press, undocumented immigrants make up about 14 percent of the meatpacking workforce in South Dakota and Nebraska. About 66 percent of meatpacking plant workers in Nebraskas are immigrants.

READ: Covid-19 Cases Surge In Meat-Processing Plants As COVID-19 Spreads In Rural America

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