By Luis Espinoza
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
When the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March 2020, the Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance (MIRA) was focusing on alleviating the terrible effects of the disastrous raid and imprisonment of 680 workers from chicken processing plants that happened in this state on August 2019.
The arrival of the pandemic strongly impacted the working immigrant community. The information was confusing, cases of infection began to multiply, entire families became ill, and many were unaware that they had been infected with the virus.
The immigrant community does not have easy access to medical services. In addition, there is a language barrier in many situations, not only for non-English speakers but also for non-Spanish speakers who speak one of the many indigenous languages. As a result, we can understand why the community was confused and concerned about their future.
Some continued working because they did not know that they had been infected with the virus, and logically, it continued to spread rapidly.
At MIRA, we began to try to locate the families who were suffering from the disease to give them information on how to cope with this health crisis. At the same time, we strive to advise the entire community on ways to avoid spreading the virus. One of the reasons why so many people became infected with the virus is that two or three families reside in a single house in many situations, allowing the infection to spread fast from one person to another.
MIRA took immediate action, and we began to provide protective masks; we distributed food. We also helped pay some bills and hand out checks to pay their medical bills.
We worked closely with religious and community leaders to be able to help families in need effectively.
Most of the families are immigrants and excellent workers. They used their traditional knowledge to fight COVID-19 by infusing tea with various herbs such as cinnamon, mint, eucalyptus, ginger, and chamomile. And as far as we know and friends have told us, these infusions helped some them get out of this health crisis.
All this time, we have also worked together with the Mississippi Department of Health, bringing updated information, masks, and hand sanitizers to the immigrant community. In addition, we help in the effort to get people tested for COVID-19, and we are currently working on having specific dates and places for the Latino migrant community to be vaccinated.
Together, with various organizations and individuals, MIRA participated in the vaccination of 308 people in three different events organized in the cities of Ridgeland on May 15, Forest on May 22, and Carthage on May 29. In Ridgeland, the Department of Health, Lavalink, Family Care Health Clinic, and the Latino Market, Carniceria Valdez, participated.
In Forest and Carthage, we worked together with the Jackson Free Clinic, doctors, nurses, volunteer interpreters, and the Catholic Churches of the cities and their leaders. They gave us full support and facilities. Special thanks to the RED PENGUIN ice cream company that donated their delicious ice creams for the children who visited us.
Thanks to the generous donations that MIRA has received. To this day, we continue to give help to families in need.
At MIRA, we have looked for new ways to stay close to the communities we serve. Now, it isn’t easy to be able to hold meetings. That is why we have started using digital platforms more effectively to communicate in a better way. We are holding events and meetings with important information for the communities through our Facebook and YouTube pages. Health, education, finance, and legal issues are some of the problems we have begun to prepare for.
Our pages on Facebook are MIRA to radio and MIRA struggle. On YouTube, it is MIRA Mississippi.
Luis Espinoza is the lead organizer for MIRA. He can be reached at 601-968-5182 ext. 1. Volunteers are welcome. Please call Luis about how you can help.