After Recovering From COVID, Undocumented Day Laborer Struggles to Rebuild Life

As an undocumented man in South Florida struggles to find a way to build his life again, he asks the community to help people like him, who he says are often forgotten

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While the rest of the country awaits the possibility that Congress may approve a second stimulus check or some other type of COVID-19-related financial assistance, an undocumented man who lives in Homestead, a day laborer -- who prefers to remain anonymous -- has to fend for himself during this pandemic.

He, along with the millions in the U.S. who lack a legal immigration status, are ineligible for those services.  

Though the pandemic has undeniably affected everyone in the world in one way or another, this man has been hit particularly hard. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 in August and had to stop working for weeks. Unlike millions of Americans, he does not receive unemployment benefits and has no support system.  

“There’s a sense of despair. And I don’t have family here. I would think, ‘When I get out of this, what’s going to happen to me?’ It’s like being born again. Now I have to go out and find work while feeling scared that I will get sick again,” said the recovered COVID-19 patient. 

He also has to find a place to live because even though he recovered and tested negative for the coronavirus over a week ago, the owners of the property he used to rent asked him not to return after they found out he was sick. In other words, COVID-19 also made him homeless. 

“At this time, I’m living in a shelter that’s allowing me to stay for a few days,” he said.

He arrived in the U.S. from Honduras almost two decades ago. About 425,000 undocumented immigrants live in South Florida, according to the Pew Research Center’s latest figures, and because he is one of them, he had no other recourse but to seek help from the non-profit organization We Count. 

“We were able to do drop-off of groceries at the shelter where he was staying, and pick up and drop off his medications,” said Claudia Navarro, program director at We Count. 

The 37-year-old man says being sick was a nightmare, but recovering didn’t take away his problems. The pandemic has caused unemployment to skyrocket. According to the latest numbers by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12% of civilian workers in Miami-Dade are unemployed. The man’s jobless situation doesn’t just affect him.

“I have three children. I fight for them. They are my everything," said the undocumented immigrant.

As he struggles to find a way to build his life again, he asks the community to help people like him, who he says are often forgotten.

“We contribute a lot to this country with our sweat and our efforts. And I think it’s fair that that be taken into account," he said.

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