Baltimore Bridge
Following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Latino organizations sign an open letter undermining anti-immigration rhetoric AFP

NEW YORK CITY - Almost two weeks after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, forty-nine Latino leaders signed an open letter honoring the memory of the victims, all of whom were Latino construction workers, while also condemning the undermining of migrants' contributions in the U.S.

Among the organizations who signed the letter wERE The Latino Coalition, NALEO Educational Fund, Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino, League of United Latin American Citizens and more. The organizations also represented different sectors of the American community, including health, legal, cultural, civic, corporate, educational and political.

"We lift this painful moment as a reminder that the Latino community is often behind the building and maintenance of our nation's infrastructure and should be celebrated for their contributions and sacrifice," the Hispanic leaders wrote in the statements.

The letter coincides with President Joe Biden's visit to the site where the bridge was located and where he met with some of the victims' families.

Simultaneously, the document is issued following a year of heightened anti-immigration rhetoric from some sectors of society and amid the unprecedented influx of migrants, particularly Latino ones, through the southern border.

One of the most notorious cases of such rhetoric took place earlier this year, when a Venezuelan man who crossed the southern border allegedly murdered a nursing student in Georgia. Following this incident, Republican and conservative legislators from different states have tried pushing for harsher immigration policies.

Additionally, such rhetoric is also being uttered by former President and current GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. This week, he referred to migrants as "animals" and "not humans" as he referred to crimes such as the one in Georgia.

"While some extremists may want to use the Latino community as a political wedge that depicts all Latinos as a burden and criminal element, the tragedy reminds us all of the reality of our community's role and daily sacrifice to keep our nation strong," the letter added.

At the site of the bridge collapse, Biden honored the victims and reassured families of their loved ones' contributions.

"Eight construction workers went into the water when the bridge fell. Six lost their lives. Most were immigrants, but all were Marylanders — hard-working, strong, and selfless," the President said. "The damage is devastating, and our hearts are still breaking."

Since the initial collapse, three of the presumed six victims' bodies have been recovered.

Two of them were recovered a day after the collapse. The workers were identified by police as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, a native of Mexico who lived in Baltimore, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, a native of Guatemala who lived in Dundalk, Maryland.

Just last week, the Unified Command found the body of Maynor Yasir Suazo-Sandoval, a father of two who migrated from Honduras over 17 years ago. He dreamed of starting a small business and brought joy and humor to his family, ABC News reported.

About a third of the nation's construction workers are Hispanic, meaning they are disproportionately exposed to the life-threatening dangers that come with working in an industry considered to be of "high hazard" by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. Department of Labor.

"They embody the truth of the commitment and contributions of Latinos and immigrants to our nation," the letter signed by the organizations read in reference to the victims. "... to [their families] we should give our thanks and respect in honor of those whose lives were lost. Adelante!"

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