Advocates Push for Extension of Immigrant Work Permits Post-Baltimore Bridge
Advocates Push for Extension of Immigrant Work Permits Post-Baltimore Bridge Tragedy Mandel NGAN/AFP

Labor unions, industry organizations, and advocates for immigrant rights are urging President Joe Biden to extend work permits to long-term immigrant residents following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last week.

The tragic incident resulted in the deaths of six men who were working on the bridge, all of whom were Latin American immigrants hailing from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Nearly 40% of the construction workforce in the Washington region is made up of immigrants, according to CASA, an immigrant rights group based in Silver Spring, Maryland, as reported by WTOP News.

At a virtual press conference held on Tuesday by Maryland advocates for immigration rights, former Arizona Sen. Bob Worlsey emphasized the crucial role of immigrant labor in supporting the economic health of various industries, including construction. "And yet, we ignore what their life is like here, living in the shadows. It's horrific and it needs to change," he said.

Worlsey warned about the consequences of the lack of stability offered by legal temporary protected status (TPS), a status that, he said, can increase the abuse of immigrants in the workforce. Consequently, the organizations asked President Joe Biden to extend work permits to immigrants who have been in the country long term through Temporary Protected Status and Humanitarian Parole.

"It is common sense that people that have been working, contributing, and paying taxes here for decades deserve the dignity of a legal work permit," Rebecca Shi, Executive Director of the American Business Immigration Coalition, said. "Given the tragedy on the Key Bridge, this is more urgent and necessary than ever."

Former president of the Associated General Contractors of America, J. Doug Pruitt, praised the skills and work ethic of immigrants in his industry, stating, "You can't get a better group of people to work for you."

Jaime Contreras, Executive Vice President of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, emphasized the grief within the immigrant community over the deaths of the six Latin American workers. "We see ourselves in each one of those who perished. They were part of our extended family of laborers who tirelessly work every day to build, maintain, and protect our community."

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday has caused sorrow among many families in the US city of Baltimore and throughout Latin America, as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, 38, originally from Honduras, had lived in the US for the past 18 years and was married with two children: a five-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, according to his brother, as reported by US media.

Miguel Luna, originally from El Salvador, had lived in Maryland for the past 19 years, where he had three children. A former co-worker, Moises Diaz, told the CBS that Luna was a kind person and a hard worker, who used to share his food with his co-workers and friends.

Jose Mynor Lopez, 35, originally from Guatemala, moved to the US almost two decades ago, according to his wife in her statement to the press. She said he was a loving father to their child and three stepchildren.

Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, originally from Mexico, was a father of four, according to the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, aged 26, was identified as one of the six victims after his body was discovered alongside Hernandez's in a submerged pickup truck. Originally from Guatemala, he had been working at Brawner Builders for at least three years and had a profound love for his job.

The sixth victim, identified only as Carlos as his full name has not been disclosed, was also of Mexican origin. At the time of the collapse, the men were employed by Brawner Builders, tasked with filling potholes on the center span of the bridge. The causes of the collapse continue to be under investigation.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.