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The true face of immigration

Baltimore was sleeping when the fully laden cargo ship, adrift and without power, slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, bringing it down in seconds.

Had the disaster taken place during the daytime, hundreds of cars and trucks could have been on the bridge over a channel leading to one of the busiest ports on the east coast. So it was a mercy it happened in the early hours, and that police got sufficient warning to stop vehicles from driving onto the bridge.

But the six people presumed dead from the tragedy couldn’t escape. They were maintenance workers — the kind of people few people notice but who do tough jobs through the night to keep the country running.

All of those missing were immigrants, outsiders who had come to the US from Mexico and Central America for a better life. Their stories and aspirations mirrored the lives of millions of new entrants to the United States. They are far more representative of the migrant population than the extreme and misleading picture often spouted about migrants by Donald Trump. The Republican presumptive nominee often falsely claims foreign countries are sending their “worst people” as a de-facto invasion force to the US. “Under Biden, other countries are emptying out their prisons, insane asylums, mental institutions, dumping everyone including mass numbers of terrorists into our country. They’re in our country now,” Trump said at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, ahead of the state’s presidential primary in January.

Trump’s demonization of immigrants who are trying to cross into the country illegally, who he claims are “poisoning the blood” of the country, often feels like a shorthand condemnation of migrants as a whole.

The bodies of two of the six construction workers who died after a cargo ship hit a pillar of the bridge have been recovered. Search efforts have been paused for the four other workers, who are presumed dead.

Miguel Luna, an immigrant from El Salvador, has been identified as one of the six people who was on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed Tuesday. - Obtained by CNN
Miguel Luna, an immigrant from El Salvador, has been identified as one of the six people who was on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when it collapsed Tuesday. - Obtained by CNN

One of the workers is father-of-three Miguel Luna, from El Salvador, who lived in Maryland for 19 years. Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, a Honduran father of two, was also on the bridge. He has lived in the US for 18 years and has an 18-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. Two Guatemalans are also missing. And three Mexicans were among the crew working on the bridge. One was rescued from the frigid waters below.

Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval - bridge victim - Martin Suazo
Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval - bridge victim - Martin Suazo

Often, migrants do jobs that other people don’t want to do – the ones with the lowest wages and the worst conditions. Some do so to support families in the US and to lay the foundation of better lives for their children and grandchildren. Many send money home to support relatives who live in far less affluent economies. Mexican immigrant workers for instance transferred more than $60 billion in remittances to their country in 2023, according to Mexico’s central bank.

The sacrifices of those missing might be worth remembering when the anti-immigrant rhetoric cranks up again in the run-up to November’s presidential election.

And when the Francis Scott Key Bridge rises again, it’s a good bet it will be immigrants who are building it.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that the missing immigrants in the Baltimore Key Bridge collapse were from Central America.

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