By Leticia Alvarez Gutiérrez, Annie Isabel Fukushima and Marie Sarita Gaytán
COVID-19 continues to take a disproportionate toll on Latinxs because many have low-paying jobs that require them to interact with the public as “essential workers.” Given their roles in critical industries, Latinxs and other people of color are dying of COVID-19 at higher rates in comparison to their white counterparts. Latinxs face contradictions as “liminal” citizens navigating in-between statuses along an indispensable (essential) and dispensable (expendable) continuum. This is what Cecilia Menjívar (2006) describes as “liminal legality,” a method used by governments to keep immigrants’ legal status undetermined. Purposefully ambiguous, it is meant to create economic and legal precarity. Undocumented immigrants are especially impacted; the government hails them as “essential,” yet fails to provide adequate health coverage, denies access to federal relief programs, and refuses to halt deportations. Although Latinxs range in legal status, they bear the brunt of pandemic. Additionally, 65% of Latinxs experienced pay cuts or layoffs since the onset of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Consequently, the effects of living in liminality are reverberating across Latinx families and communities. For Latinx educators, staff and students, questions loom about fall classes during the pandemic.
As the Latinx community continues to confront structural inequities present long before the COVID-19 outbreak (think: employment, health care, housing, safety, and immigration needs), what is the role of Latinx educators during pandemic? As Indigenous Latina/Purépecha/Chicana (Alvarez Gutiérrez), Asian-Latina / KoreXicana (Fukushima), Latina/Chilean/Irish (Gaytán) first-generation professors in the state of Utah, we view our role as essential educators. We are mindful of the stakes of being called on to work – in the classroom as educators – and the unease of teaching and learning while the global pandemic accelerates. Latinx Talk
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