If there is anyone who understands the effect that government policies have on the most vulnerable, it is Bronx representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Whether it’s proposing policy-based solutions and strategies or holding those who lobby for big corporations accountable, AOC has made the well being of the less fortunate her Leitmotif.
In the wake of the massive spread of COVID-19 and the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic, the economic crisis and the responses of the Trump administration have put activists and politicians on the edge of their seats, especially when it comes to the future and safety of communities at risk, such as immigrants, people of color, women, and the elderly.
“This is an emergency,” the representative wrote on Twitter. “We need to help vulnerable people and small businesses now with paid leave, extended unemployment, UBI, Medicaid expansion and mortgage suspensions.”
AOC was responding to the news that President Trump would ask Congress for “more than $800 billion in economic stimulus,” which will include: $500 billion in payroll tax cuts, a $250 billion in Small Business Association loans, and $58 billion for the airline industry, and other issues.
According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, his department “would aim to allow $300 billion in tax deferrals to combat the coronavirus pandemic,” the Washington Examiner reported. He also said that individuals “could defer up to $1 million and corporations could defer $10 million in tax payments to the federal government without being charged for penalties and interest.”
For AOC, this is not enough.
“Expanding small businesses’ loans is an acceptable consideration,” she wrote. “But we must avoid allowing this crisis to put millions of people in insurmountable debt. Checks to people are good and I applaud the proposal, but it’s not enough.”
Similarly, the representative demonstrated and acted against the measures of the Immigration and Customs Agency, which despite the declaration of the pandemic continues to carry out raids throughout the country, without taking into account the risk of contamination that this implies for immigrants.
“Last night on a tip-off call I headed to LaGuardia airport and intercepted ICE transporting several children to NYC, an outbreak hub, via commercial air,” she explained on Twitter. “If the Pentagon has halted all domestic travel for military, why is ICE transporting unaccompanied children in a pandemic?”
The legislator’s concern echoes several warnings from politicians and activists nationwide, who have urged the Department of Homeland Security to suspend actions to avoid endangering communities.
As reported by The New York Times a few days ago, the agency reportedly deployed hundreds of additional agents and 24-hour surveillance “to increase arrests in cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement,” such as California, for example.
Detention numbers have escalated considerably, so Democratic Senators Jeff Merkely, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders have demanded that the universal right to health care be respected “regardless of immigration status,” and denounced that implementation of the administration’s anti-immigrant Public Charge Rule could constrain the response of health officials.
“In light of the seriousness of the public health emergency we face, we need the cooperation of all agencies to facilitate a swift response, and the public charge rule impedes that response,” they wrote. “We request an immediate moratorium on any enforcement-related actions at sensitive medical locations.”
Although ICE officials have assured that the agency “does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances,” fears are latent that information shared by citizens at care facilities will be shared with the government.
“With the threats of increased ICE activity, the new Public Charge rule, and overall distrust of government, we are marginalizing a significant segment of our society and harming their ability to access critical medical services,” said Rodrigo Camarena, Director of the Immigration Advocates Network, to The Independent.
“The federal government must stop wasting valuable resources mobilizing ICE and CBP agents across the country and instead focus on supporting cities and states who are least equipped to manage the growing crisis.”