Karina Silvotti, who is an essential worker living in New Jersey shared that she was “worried night and day” as to what may happen to her and her family in case she got sick while she was working as a cashier in a grocery store. Karina does not have a legal status hence she is not eligible for federal relief even though she pays into the system since she pays taxes. Her husband lost his job in the construction industry due to the pandemic which has increased their fears.
She wrote on NJ.com, “I’m not alone. A half-million immigrants in New Jersey—about half of whom are essential workers who have done the work to clean, cook and prepare our food during the pandemic—are excluded from all aid.” Silvotti is among various essential workers who live in the state. They have launched a hunger strike and are fasting to demand some action from their state leaders for relief.
These Thunder strikers such as Pedro Buitrago, Silvotti, and various others in New Jersey are trying to replicate the success that was achieved by the advocates, workers, and hunger strikers in New York where leaders came to an agreement last week for a whopping $2.1 billion as pandemic relief for workers who were excluded which also included undocumented immigrants. Fasters in New York broke their hunger strike after fasting for 23 days without any food.
Ana Ramirez who is a faster told amNY, “Today, our work today has been recognized. Our dignity has been recognized, and our dignity has been lifted by passing this fund.” Silvotti wrote in her op-ed that she was hopeful her fast which is supposed to last a week will bring attention to the problem and remind leaders of the state that workers who are undocumented have gone 12 months without any federal aid.
Silvotti wrote, “Over Thanksgiving when we wanted to have a meal together, it was difficult to have enough food to go around. Presents were scarce for Christmas. We were scrambling just to pay the rent and pay for my medication, which I need to take every day.” She also added that at her job she “fed so many during the pandemic, but when my family was suffering, no one provided for us. This week, I’m joining a fast lead by immigrant essential workers like me to demand relief. We can’t go on like this—now, for more than a year. You could say that I’ve been hungry for a year—and I’m making this sacrifice this week because I want to show our state what we are willing to give to have our humanity, our work, and our dignity recognized.”
The Star-Ledger Editorial Board recently wrote in its op-ed, “These immigrants did the essential work when it was needed most. They were on the front lines at stores and restaurants and construction sites and hospitals, and their labor helped save lives while most of us sheltered in place, while facing exposure, illness, and indifference for their sacrifice if they got sick, lost their jobs, or lost their lives. It’s payback time.”