Letter: Amrry González, Ashburn

I live in Ashburn, Virginia. I am originally from Nicaragua, and moved to the United States 19 years ago.I work in maintenance in an apartment complex in Ashburn, and I am concerned about the rent crisis we are experiencing. It is a crisis not only for the immigrant community, but also for all working class tenants here in Loudoun County.

We have all been affected in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has affected me psychologically, due to the constant fear of contracting the virus and infecting my family, my daughter and my granddaughters, with whom I share a home. It has affected me in the way I interact with my coworkers: we cannot greet each other with a handshake, just a cold “hello” suffices for the whole day.

As Latin-American immigrants, we have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, economically and in rates of infection.Personally, my hours have been reduced, and with my decreased income I have difficulties paying rent and buying groceries.

Hispanic people make up 15 percent of Loudoun’s population, but 50 percent of COVID-19 cases. Despite being an important labor force in Loudoun, we are often not granted workplace protections because of our immigration status, or do not know about our rights as workers. Many of us are uninsured and struggle to afford the high costs of healthcare, and all of our decisions carry the risk of exposing us to ICE and deportation.

In addition to being disadvantaged by our immigration status, there is another fundamental barrier that prevents us from accessing information and not seeking medical assistance when it is most needed: language. Many of us are not fluent in English, and as such cannot access vital information about COVID-19.

Most of us in the immigrant community pay taxes faithfully regardless of our status. However, we were not included in the federal stimulus program. In a critical situation like this, we are completely ignored. There is no humanitarian gesture in favor of immigrants.

Above and beyond this fact is the cost in human lives—for us, our families and the health of our community.

The financial aid that the government has provided has only benefited those who have documents, and even so, not all of them received it because of undocumented family members. We have had to resort to food banks to feed ourselves and our families

Evictions are currently halted, but set to proceed at the end of June. People may face the threat of eviction in the coming months. How can a human being survive eviction during a pandemic? What are Loudoun County and the Commonwealth of Virginia going to do to protect families without work, unable to qualify for assistance, in communities suffering from high COVID-19 infection rates? How are we going to guarantee the humane treatment of people over profit during this public health crisis?

Amrry González, Ashburn