The men who died in the Baltimore bridge collapse join hundreds of other migrant workers who’ve died toiling in dangerous conditions on U.S. job sites.

by Tina Vásquez, Prism

Being an immigrant in the U.S. is a deadly job.

Americans were reminded of this when six immigrant workers were plunged into the cold waters of Baltimore’s Patapsco River after a 984-foot cargo ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing its collapse in the early morning hours of March 26.

Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, Miguel Luna, Jose Mynor Lopez, and Carlos Hernández would have had no idea what hit them. The crew on the ship issued an emergency mayday call before colliding with the bridge, but the workers who worked 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. filling potholes did not get any warning.

workers work on a bridge

The men hailed from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some were reportedly undocumented, and all of them are said to have sent remittances to their families in their home countries, the way that many “good” immigrant men do. Across the media, reporting on the workers’ deaths plays into every good immigrant trope that exists. The men were “generous,” “humble,” “hard working,” and died doing a job Americans “do not want to do.” These are well-meaning efforts to elicit empathy for immigrant workers in a country that usually has none.

When migrant workers die on U.S. job sites, they transform into “heroes.” Never mind that in life, they are subject to anti-immigrant laws that make it impossible to adjust their status, xenophobic rhetoric at the highest levels of government, and narratives that somehow paint them as both a drain on the economy and in the country to steal American jobs.

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