En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: NY1
Subject: Health Justice & Access
Type: Media Coverage

Undocumented Workers Push For 9/11 Health Benefits

Hundreds of
undocumented workers who helped get the city up and running again after the
September 11th attacks held a rally Tuesday in Elmhurst,
Queens where they called on government
officials to recognize their health concerns. NY1’s Ruschell Boone filed the
following report.

One by one,
workers shared stories of respiratory problems and chronic illnesses they say
developed after helping with the cleanup at or near the World Trade
Center site.

"I
have health problems in my lungs, including asthma, bacteria and cancer,"
said one worker.

Some are
receiving care for September 11th related conditions, but others said they
don’t have adequate health care because they are undocumented workers. Now
they’re asking the government to grant them citizenship.

"Once we get the citizenship
the health benefits for them will begin to flow,"
said Make the Road New York Deputy Director Javier Valdes. "The ability for them to become a
resident of this country will allow them to access broader benefits at the
federal level."

Many said
they haven’t been able to work and take care of their families. Some even said
their compensation cases against their former employers have dragged on for
nearly a decade.

"It’s
an emergency and we need to to it now because their illnesses are going to keep
on progressing and their needs are going to keep on progressing," said
Veronica Piedra of the Ecuadorian International Center.

More than a
hundred workers attended the conference which was sponsored by Make the Road New York, a non-profit
advocacy group. Make the Road wants
to make sure these workers are not forgotten in the fight for immigration
reform.

"The 9/11 workers want to make
sure that what they gave to this country to make sure that New York City got
back on its feet is compensated by their ability to gain citizenship in this
country," Valdes
said.

Hoping to
push the government on the issue, the workers and their supporters are now gearing
up for a massive rally in Washington
D.C.

"The president promised in 2008
that he was going to be a champion for immigration reform. What we have seen
over the last year is total inaction on immigration," Valdes
said.

The Washington rally is
scheduled for March 21st. Organizers say they hope as many as 100,000 people
will take part.

Watch the video here.