The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, along with more than a dozen other community groups, are calling on Gov. Bill Lee and local government officials to establish a plan to address COVID-19 disparities in the state’s Latino community.
They’re asking for enforceable workplace protections, direct cash assistance for undocumented families who didn’t qualify for stimulus checks, and hotel accommodations where individuals residing in multigenerational homes can quarantine.
One in three COVID infections in Tennessee has been among Latinos. And, says TIRRC’s Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, the state’s Latino population has been consistently employed on the frontlines of the pandemic, making them more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.
“We’re extremely alarmed at the disproportionate rates of infections in the Latinx community,” she says. “Latinx families and families of color, including Black communities, face a lot of barriers: lack of transportation, extreme poverty … and discrimination in treatment and care.”
In Nashville, the city’s immigrant corridor has been a COVID-19 hotspot for weeks, and there has been little progress to mitigate the spread in that community despite efforts from local leaders.
While Sherman-Nikolaus says she commends the efforts that have already been made, she’s calling for a more substantial investment in community health workers and Latino-specific resources. Statewide recommendations include:
- Establishing offices for new Americans,
- Rebuilding trust damaged by immigration policies,
- Direct economic relief,
- Expand testing in Latino communities,
- Providing case management services.
While their call is specifically meant to address disparities in the Latino community, TIRRC and other community groups say they also want “policymakers to find solutions to address the disproportionate COVID-19 infection and death rates in non-Latino Black communities and other communities of color.”