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Undocumented immigrant workers feel extra anxiety amid coronavirus

Lorena Duarte of Palisades Park, New Jersey, hasn’t cleaned houses in more than two weeks. She’s afraid to go to work and bring the COVID-19 virus home to a daughter who had a lung operation a few years ago.  

Javier Martinez of Kearny, New Jersey, said all his landscaping jobs have dried up. He’s searched for other work but hasn’t been successful.

“The clients that give us work, they have closed their businesses and stopped their projects, and they left us up in the air,” Martinez said. “There is no work, and we have rent coming up.” 

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed last month was intended to help displaced workers stay afloat as the coronavirus shuts down the economy. For immigrant laborers such as Duarte and Martinez, there’ll be little financial relief coming from the government. 

Day laborers negotiate work in Palisades Park, New Jersey, on July 16, 2019.

They’re among the estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the USA who are ineligible for emergency federal benefits or state unemployment insurance because they don’t have valid work authorization. 

That’s left an extra layer of anxiety for immigrants without legal status who have lost their jobs or seen work hours reduced amid the statewide shutdown of “nonessential” businesses. Many turned to local organizations for help to put food on the table and pay other expenses. 

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