Things That Matter

The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

Not that we should be traveling right now, as the country’s Coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral out of control – but it’s worth noting that our international options are fewer than they were just months ago.

Historically, the U.S. passport has been seen as the golden ticket to travel with ease across the international community as it was once regarded as one of the strongest passports in the world. But that’s changing.

You can blame the drop in standing of the U.S. passport on our elected leaders who have massively failed to gain an upper hand on this health crisis. As other countries have demonstrated an ability to control Coronavirus within their borders, the U.S. has failed miserably. And that failure – in addition to more than 3 million infections and 130,000 deaths – has resulted in Americans simply being turned away from international destinations.

The U.S. passport dropped in visa-free access from 7th to 25th place as a result of our Coronavirus failures.

In what is a double whammy for the United States, the country recently crossed the three-million mark in terms of the number of registered COVID-19 cases, and more than 132,000 people have died from the disease. Now, its handling of the pandemic has drastically diminished power of its passport. 

Before the pandemic, the U.S. was regularly listed in the Top 10 on the Henley Passport Index, an annual ranking of the number of countries a passport gets you into without a visa. The ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association. The US usually comes in sixth or seventh and topped the list as recently as 2014. Before the coronavirus pandemic, a US passport would get you into 185 destinations around the world without the need for a visa at all or a visa on arrival.

According to the latest Henley Passport Index, U.S. passports now have access to only 158 countries, putting it on par with a Mexican passport, a significant decline from its previous top 10 ranking in 2014.

“We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind,” says Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, according to Forbes.

The biggest drop came as a result of the European Union banning entry to U.S. citizens.

Many countries across the globe are beginning to open back up as they get their Coronavirus outbreaks under control, and they are limiting or banning travel with countries where the virus is running rampant — including the United States. 

In fact, as Europe has slowly started to reopen its borders to international tourists, it’s specifically left off the U.S. Europe’s decision is responsible for the largest drop in the power of the U.S. passport.

Recently, five Americans who flew to Sardinia on a private jet were turned away and governors in Mexico are advocating for tighter border measures to prevent Americans from going into the country and spreading the virus. 

The U.S. passport is now equal in strength to that of Mexico and Uruguay.

It’s no secret that citizenship is the main factor behind preserving global inequalities today and that simply holding a U.S. passport can grant you access to so many more destinations. But now, Americans are getting to swee just how your government’s actions – or failures – can result in you being treated differently on the global level.

Thanks to America’s failure at combating the virus, U.S. citizens now hold passports that have around the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Mexico (#25 on Henley Passport Index, with a score of 159) and Uruguay (#28, with a score of 153).

Coronavirus continues to rage out of control across the U.S., so it should go without saying that an international trip is not a good idea right now.

Countries are closing their doors to Americans, as the outbreak in the US — the worst in the world — nears 3 million infections with over 131,000 deaths.

The US last week surpassed 50,000 new daily coronavirus cases, and that trend has been maintained this week with multiple states and cities recording record-high new infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. 

Another factor playing into travel restrictions – beyond the surging of cases in the U.S., is that America’s health care system is decentralized, unpredictable and unequal.

Tourism is essential for the economies of many destinations—and the livelihoods of individuals and families—and plays a role in reducing poverty. But right now is not the time for Americans to be traveling.

Behind On Rent, Some Undocumented Residents Are Self-Evicting Rather Than Risking The Legal System

Things That Matter

Behind On Rent, Some Undocumented Residents Are Self-Evicting Rather Than Risking The Legal System

Brandon Bell / Getty Images

Eviction is a terrifying prospect. Even more so amid a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. Imagine losing your house – a place you’ve called home with your family for months or even years. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that millions are facing as the Coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the global economy, millions are plunged into unemployment, and millions more struggle to make ends meet – including the most basic necessity of paying the rent.

Several cities and states have enacted temporary rent freezes or holds on evictions but landlords are still threatening their renters with evictions. Some of the most vulnerable communities – such as undocumented residents – are left feeling hopeless and with no where to turn since they may be afraid to seek legal help and have less access to government-funded resources. As a result, many undocumented residents are choosing to self-evict rather than risk going up against a hostile legal system.

A new report details how many undocumented migrants are choosing to self-evict instead of fighting back.

The Texas Tribune published a feature story on a hard-to-track aspect of the coronavirus pandemic: Undocumented immigrants are “self-evicting” from apartments, even while eviction moratoriums are in place, out of fear of retribution. 

“On paper, an undocumented tenant has the same rights as anyone else during the eviction process,” the report says. “But housing attorneys and tenant and immigration advocates say undocumented immigrants are frequently hesitant to exercise those options. Their fear of the legal system and lack of access to government-funded financial help prompt many to self-evict, or prematurely leave the property.”

In some cases, undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for certain government assistance programs that could help them keep up with rent or remain in their homes, the report says. In other cases, some are afraid to seek assistance because they don’t want to attract attention from immigration officials, according to the report.

Because of that, some undocumented immigrants choose to leave their homes even before a formal eviction is filed, turning to family members and community organizations for emergency housing. Immigrants have also lost their jobs at higher rates during the pandemic than other groups.

The legal system is a hostile one towards undocumented residents and help perpetuate fear in the community.

As the Coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects began to be felt across the country, many renters found temporary relief in eviction moratoriums, federal pandemic relief payments, unemployment checks and rental assistance programs. Undocumented migrants, though, either don’t qualify for such aid or are afraid that merely seeking it will alert immigration authorities to their presence in a country whose president has called some immigrants “animals,” makes racist remarks and consistently tries to create barriers for migrants.

Meanwhile, courthouses are intimidating places. And the mere idea that ICE officials are sometimes present in them (and they have indeed arrested undocumented immigrants who have shown up for court hearings that a unrelated to their immigration status) has left many too fearful to even attempt a legal challenge to a potential eviction.

For some, it’s also a language barrier as not all legal systems provide bilingual services.

In the report, Adriana Godines, of Dallas Area Interfaith, says that “When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on.” She adds “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”

And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.

“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.”

However, there are resources out there for undocumented residents facing evictions.

Credit: Bebeto Matthews / Getty Images

States from California to Connecticut have implemented varying degrees of aide to undocumented immigrants within their states. In Connecticut for example, the state has issued a $1 million fund aimed at supporting immigrants with rent payments. In California, the state is working to make unemployment benefits available to undocumented residents, which would go a long way in helping people pay their rent. The state has also launched a fund that provides up to $1,000 in financial assistance to undocumented residents in the state. You can learn more here.

NAKASEC’s Emergency Mutual Aid Fund will provide up to $500 in financial assistance, you can find the application here.

There are many other programs available to the community in states all across the country. Several resources are detailed further at InformedImmigrant.com.

A 100-Year-Old Man Survived Coronavirus And The Hospital Released Him In The Best Way Possible

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A 100-Year-Old Man Survived Coronavirus And The Hospital Released Him In The Best Way Possible

@VeracruzIsste / Twitter

The Coronavirus pandemic is serious. It’s killed hundreds of thousands and infected millions more. And in many places, including in the United States, it shows no signs of slowing down. But so often we only hear about the worst of the pandemic. We don’t get to hear about the slivers of hope and moments of celebration: including the story of a 100-year-old man who fought back the virus and was recently released from a Mexican hospital with a clean bill of health.

100-year-old Ignacio Cano was released from a Veracruz hospital after winning the battle against his Covid-19 infection.

Credit: @VeracruzIssste / Twitter

Ignacio Cano, or Don Nacho, was the oldest patient battling a Covid-19 infection to be admitted to the hospital. But thankfully, he’s also the oldest patient to be released after winning his fight against the virus.

The 100-year-old patient was admitted to the Speciality Hospital of Mexico’s public healthcare system (ISSSTE) in the Mexican state of Veracruz, with a diagnosis of Covid-19. Don Nacho spent more than 15 days under observation in the hospital and underwent several treatments for the virus.

In the state of Veracruz, 19,535 cases of the coronavirus have been reported, with 2,525 deaths. A total of 11 people between the ages of 32 and 80 years of age have recovered at the ISSSTE High Specialty Hospital of Veracruz.

His release was celebrated by hospital staff and local media.

As the oldest patient to recover from the virus, Don Nacho was met with a celebratory send off by hospital staff, who were understandably enthusiastic to see him being discharged. 

Raucous cheers, whistles and shouts of “Si, se puede!” by medical personnel greeted the centenarian as he was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health.

As Ignacio was being wheeled out of the hospital on a stretcher before being taken home by ambulance Sunday, his daughter, Maribel, thanked a doctor for his help in saving her 100-year-old father’s life.

Don Nacho’s release comes as grim news regarding the virus in Mexico makes headlines.

Credit: Humberto Pineda / Getty Images

Recent projections by Mexican health ofícialas say that the real number of Covid-19 cases in the country could be more than 17 times higher than official counts. That would put the potential number of cases at 7 million – greater than those in the U.S.

As of July 31, the official count of confirmed Coronavirus cases is 416,000 and 46,000 people have died from the virus. Due to a shockingly low test rate, many health experts believe that Mexico is vastly underestimating the widespread severity of the pandemic.

Despite this uncertainty, many parts of the country have started to return to a sense of ‘normalcy’ as bars, restaurants, and shopping centers begin to reopen. Even popular tourist destinations, such as Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, have reopened to tourism, including travelers from the Coronavirus-ravaged United States.