En Español Know Your Rights
Source: New York Daily News
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

Sick Undocumented 9/11 Cleanup Workers Demand Health Coverage, Legal Status for Work at Ground Zero

 

Nearly a decade ago, Liliana Sanchez stood knee-
deep in dust at an office building near Ground Zero, vacuuming for $60 a day
with only a paper mask to protect her.


These days, the undocumented Colombian immigrant
struggles to breathe while climbing a flight of subway stairs and worried about
the future of her medical care.


"They called us heroes while we were working
and we also felt like heroes. Now they have pushed us aside," said the
40-year-old from Medellin.


Sanchez will join 200 other undocumented 9/11
cleanup workers Tuesday at a rally to push for continued health coverage and
legal immigration status.


Most of their compensation suits they have filed
are pending, and they feel stuck in limo while health-care and immigration
changes are on the horizon.


"These
folks are sort of at the center of a perfect storm,"
said Javier Valdes, deputy director of Make the Road New York, a non-profit advocacy
group.


"We
don’t want immigration reform to pass in 2012 and have these people pass
away."


The workers say they are grateful for federally
funded medical care they get but are afraid it could vanish without mandatory
funding.


"At any moment…they could cut our benefits,
and take this away from us," said Jose Gaviria, 59, another Colombian
immigrants.


He gets free psychological treatment and care for
9/11-related conditions like chronic rhinitis and acid reflux through the World
Trade Center Medical Monitoring and Treatment Program at Mt. Sinai.