Nebraska activists want undocumented essential workers prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination


By María Inés Taracena, Prism Reports

via Workday Minnesota - Feb 16, 2021 


Dulce Castañeda wasn’t surprised by Nebraska Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ remarks earlier this month, threatening that undocumented essential workers wouldn’t be a priority in distribution of the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccine. She was still outraged, however. For Castañeda, this is personal. Her father has been a meatpacking worker at a Smithfield Foods pork plant for over two decades, and her mother worked at the same meatpacking plant in Crete, Nebraska, before quitting when Castañeda was younger. Both of her parents are from Mexico.


“They were named essential workers at the expense of their health. They didn’t have a choice from the beginning,” said Castañeda, an organizer with the Nebraska-based advocacy group Children of Smithfield. “At one point they were being applauded … and all of the sudden [for the governor] to turn around and say … ’you’re heroes but your health is not important to us. You’re only important as far as you’re producing something.’ It is especially harmful to communities of color and undocumented immigrants who are already in a vulnerable position.”


The pandemic has ravaged through immigrant, Black, Native, and brown communities across the country. At the forefront of this painful health and economic crisis are thousands of essential workers—many undocumented people, who long before COVID-19 came already felt the cruel hardships of this system.


Meat and poultry plant workers are among the hardest hit...


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