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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Monday, April 08, 2024

'Most were immigrants. All were Marylanders': Biden grieves in Baltimore over bridge collapse

President Joe Biden grieved with family members of the six immigrant workers killed in the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse during a trip Friday to Baltimore, urging Congress to take swift action to approve funding to rebuild the bridge. Biden, who has clamped down on unauthorized border crossings, steered clear of mentioning the victims' status in the country, instead focusing on their contribution to their community. "Most were immigrants, all were Marylanders − hardworking, strong and selfless," Biden said, during the visit 10 days after the devastating bridge collapse. Biden told the reeling Baltimore community that "your nation has your back" and vowed to "move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as rapidly as humanly possible." He said his administration is committed to ensuring the parties responsible for the bridge collapse are "held accountable to the fullest extent the law will allow." "But I also want to be clear: We we will support Maryland and Baltimore every step of the way to help you rebuild and maintain all the business and commerce that's here now," Biden said, announcing federal grants available to workers who relocate to Baltimore to assist in recovery efforts. Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide On Marine One along with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Biden toured by air what remains of the bridge on the Patapsco River before receiving a briefing on recovery efforts from first responders and local and state officials at the Maryland Transportation Authority in Dundalk, Maryland. "As I stand here, I call on Congress to authorize this effort as soon as possible," Biden said of the massive bridge reconstruction project. After his remarks, Biden met with loved ones of the six deceased workers, who were immigrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. Two other workers were rescued. "After pulling a night shift working potholes, they were on a break when the ship struck," Biden said, recounting how one of the victims, Carlos Hernandez, 24, left a message for his girlfriend seconds before the bridge collapsed saying that he and his crew had just poured cement and were waiting for it to dry. "To all the families of loved ones who are grieving, I've come here to grieve with you. We all are. It's not the same, but I know a little bit about what it's like to lose a piece of our soul," Biden said, adding the time will come when the thought of their loved one "brings a smile to your face instead of a tear." "My vow is that we will not rest, as Carlos said, until the cement has dried of the entirety of a new bridge," Biden said. President Joe Biden participates in an operational briefing on the response and recovery efforts for the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge and the container ship Dali in Baltimore on April 5, 2024. House Freedom Caucus demands conditions for bridge funding The absence of the bridge has major economic ramifications for the region and for shipping out of the Port of Baltimore. The collapse occurred around 1:30 a.m. on March 26, when the Singapore-flagged container ship Dali slammed into one of the bridge's piers as it left the Port of Baltimore. The Biden administration last week authorized $60 million in federal emergency relief funds for Maryland's initial costs but significantly more funding will be needed to rebuild the bridge. Biden has vowed the federal government will cover the entire tab for reconstruction. Some House Republicans are seeking conditions for any federal bridge funding. The hardline House Freedom Caucus, which has balked at previous spending measures in Congress, demanded in a statement Friday that the Biden administration lift its pause on approvals for liquified natural gas export projects as part of any funding package to reconstruct the bridge. Freedom Caucus members also said all funding for the bridge's reconstruction must be "fully offset" for them to sign off on bridge funding. President Joe Biden speaks about the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters. The bridge collapsed on March 26 after a massive cargo ship rammed into it, causing the structure to crumble into the Patapsco River and kill six workers who were patching potholes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday announced an ambitious timeline to partially reopen the Fort McHenry Channel in Baltimore by the end of April and fully reopen it by the end of May. The Francis Scott Key Bridge opened in 1977 after a five-year construction. But officials say it could be rebuilt in less than five years, depending on funding, design plans and the state of the wreckage under the water. Brigadier General John Lloyd of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described a "mangled mess" below the water. He said one major task is removing a large section of the bridge − that weighs 5,000 tons and is 125 feet tall − sitting on the ship. He said workers are trying to cut that piece off the ship and remove it so they can move the ship. Bridge collapse brings awareness to immigrant labor Moore announced the Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Alliance, composed of more than 50 businesses and other partners, agreed not to lay off employees affected by the bridge collapse. "Now I know our state's largest city is being tested right now," Moore said. "But Baltimore has been tested before. We get knocked down, we stand back up and we dust ourselves off, and we move forward. That is what we do. And the people of Maryland are grateful to have a full partner in this work like President Biden." A fleet of helicopters, including Marine One carrying U.S. President Joe Biden, circles the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. The deaths of the six workers rattled Baltimore’s Latino immigrant community, which has grown swiftly in recent years, with offices established in the city, county and state providing immigrant services. But gaps in resources for the community have been cast into sharper focus with the collapse. “It’s tragic that it has to take this to bring attention to this population,” said Mónica Guerrero Vázquez, executive director of Centro SOL, a Johns Hopkins University-affiliated organization that helps local Latino communities with health access. “However, it's very important to use this as an opportunity to build momentum on the importance of immigrant labor in the state and in cities like Baltimore, to promote equity and social justice in our communities.” Susana Barrios, a volunteer for Comité Latino de Baltimore, said the impact of the collapse is still being absorbed in immigrant communities. She compared it with the COVID-19 pandemic, in the sense that it exposed a deficit of support for some residents. Comité started distributing food Salem United Methodist Church in Highlandtown, a popular neighborhood for immigrants, because people there didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance or food stamps because of their immigration status. The same may come to pass with the bridge collapse, it's an economic blow and a heavy weight on the mental health of people coping with the tragedy. Even smaller issues such as longer commutes will effect people's daily lives, Barrios added. “It’s going to affect us way more than we even think because it has such a huge ripple effect,” she said. CASA, the community's nonprofit day worker center, said its executive director, Gustavo Torres, met with Biden. In a statement, Torres stressed the importance of providing immediate immigration relief to impacted families, including temporary protected status, a designation for countries including El Salvador and Honduras, and advanced parole, a form of protection for those with work permits. “The Key Bridge collapse sent shivers down the spine of every immigrant who heads out to a dangerous workplace every day: they know what it is like because immigrant workers often swallow the perils of their job in order to put food on their family’s table,” Torres said. “We have done so for decades without thanks and without recognition.” Some community members hoped the president would delve into the reality the bridge collapse revealed: that immigrants often do the toughest and most essential jobs in the U.S., and risk their lives doing so. The Rev. Mark Parker, pastor of Breath of God Lutheran Church, said he would have liked it if the president – in addition to rallying Americans with pride about rebuilding the bridge – had spoken about the way people treat and care for each other, and how immigrants build their own American dreams alongside people who have been in this country longer. "It would it would be great if the President would not shy away from the immigrant identity, and in some of these cases, the undocumented nature of some of the men that died," he said before the speech. “I think that would be a lost opportunity,” Parker said, adding, “I understand that might make it politically risky.” For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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