Posted on April 15, 2020

The Pandemic Is Reminding Us How Much We Need Immigrants

Desi Duncker, Medium, April 14, 2020

Around the world, people are giving rounds of applause to the seemingly tireless healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic. While this is a thoughtful and well-deserved gesture, it’s worth a reminder about the immigration angle. We should take a snapshot of the praise being lavished upon healthcare workers, many of whom are Caribbean immigrants, and then bring up that snapshot during the next wave of anti-immigrant sentiment.

UK: Windrush Generation and NHS

In the UK, for example, people are applauding the workers of the National Health Service (NHS). But over the last few years, as a result of the waves of anti-immigrant sentiment, Home Office has either worked actively to remove, detain and/or block from re-entry legal Caribbean immigrants from the Windrush generation, or has been neglectful to the point of having the same effect. A read though the comprehensive report on this scandal — prepared by the HM inspector of constabulary appointed as independent reviewer, Wendy Williams — can be jarring at times.

Named after the 1948 Empire Windrush ship that picked up Jamaican servicemen and others from Kingston and sailed to England, the Windrush generation saw waves of Afro-Caribbean people, mainly from Jamaica and Barbados (which remained British colonies until the 1960s), come to the UK to work in sectors such as healthcare that badly needed labor. {snip}


Many of these immigrants are current or former NHS workers. {snip}


As for the US, it’s often the people from “shithole countries”, as President Donald Trump reportedly referred to Haiti and African countries, who take care of us during times of crisis. President Trump reportedly asked, “What do we want Haitians here for?” Go down to your local hospital right now and ask that question again. (But really, don’t go to a hospital right now unless you have to. It’s a war zone.) When my daughter was born a couple of months ago, we received amazing care from all of our nurses who came from Ghana, Jamaica and the Philippines. (Thanks, Mount Sinai West!)