Advocates Push for Extension of Immigrant Work Permits Post-Baltimore Bridge
Latino Workers Afraid of Baltimore Bridge Rebuilding: “We don’t want to die” Mandel NGAN/AFP

Almost two weeks after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, which resulted in the deaths of six Latino workers, and following President Joe Biden's announcement that he wants the federal government to cover the cost of rebuilding it, many workers have said they are too afraid to take on the job.

"We don't want to die that way," José Luis Juarez, 41, from Guatemala, told The Independent in a recent article while he was visiting a memorial to the late workers.

Eight Latino migrant workers hailing from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, were filling potholes on the bridge in the early hours of March 26 when a cargo ship crashed into a support pillar, resulting in its immediate collapse.

Two men survived and the six remaining ones died.

Only three of the six victims' bodies have been recovered. They are: Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, a native of Mexico who lived in Baltimore; Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, aged 26, a native of Guatemala who lived in Dundalk, Maryland; and Maynor Yasir Suazo-Sandoval, 38, a father of two who migrated from Honduras over 17 years ago.

The other victims were identified as Miguel Luna, originally from El Salvador and who had lived in Maryland for the past 19 years; Jose Mynor Lopez, 35, originally from Guatemala; and a man identified only as Carlos, whose full name has not been disclosed and who was also of Mexican descent.

"Imagine all the days that have passed and they still haven't found the bodies of the missing," Juarez said. "You imagine how the families are suffering...I have kids and I don't want that to happen to them."

Other Latinos participating in the memorial said that some migrants who come to the U.S. might be more willing to do the reconstruction work because of a lack of options. "The situation in this country is you don't get to choose your job," Miguel Velasquez, 41, told The Independent. "You have to take the jobs they put in front of you."

President Joe Biden insisted on Friday that he wants Congress to pass funding to cover the full cost of constructing a new bridge. On the same day, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young sent a letter to congressional leaders on Friday asking them to authorize "a 100% Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge."

The president also announced that his administration would offer financial aid to workers affected by the suspension of port operations. Additionally, he mentioned that the Small Business Administration would provide low-interest loans to small businesses impacted by the recent incident.

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.

This week, CASA sent a letter to the Biden administration, urging for the issuance of work permits for long-term workers within the construction industry. This includes individuals with temporary protected status and those granted humanitarian parole.

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