Authorities have suspended search-and-rescue efforts for four construction workers lost in the Patapsco River after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Two others were pulled from the wreckage Wednesday, and two survived the catastrophe. Each of these men helped make the Baltimore region a thriving, vibrant and safer community. They were longtime residents of the area — fathers, spouses, community members and immigrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico — who poured out their love and care to better their communities but received little care in return.

This tragedy is an unwavering reminder that immigrants are part of the backbone of our country and are woven into the fabric of every city, state and community we call home. Baltimore is not Baltimore without them. That applies to any other U.S. community. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to show us, immigrants are crucial to helping communities recover. Yet, far too often, the care that we immigrants selflessly give to make us collectively safer comes at the expense of our lives.

In the early-morning hours before the bridge was struck by a cargo ship, these six men were busy repairing masonry and potholes, ensuring the roads we cross every day were tended to for their neighbors.

In the days after the bridge collapse, divers found two of the men trapped inside a pickup truck in 25 feet of water, Maryland State Police Superintendent Col. Roland L. Butler Jr. said at a news conference. They were identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, from Veracruz in Mexico, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, who was from San Luis in Guatemala.

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Two other workers have been identified: Miguel Luna, a father of three, and Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, a father of two.

These men were part of the Baltimore-area community, had raised families here, gave themselves to the city every day and belonged here.

The Key Bridge collapse was a terrible accident, and terrible accidents happen far too often to workers. But in a country where immigrant lives are consistently devalued, it serves as an important reminder of how much immigrants put their lives on the line for all of us. Our hearts are shattered knowing that these men should have made it back home that night to see their loved ones, to hug their children and to embrace their spouses. Instead, this tragedy is a somber reminder of the work we all must do to ensure our communities are safe and caring for everyone who calls this place home.

Across industries, especially in construction fields, immigrant communities face higher rates of fatality due to dangerous working conditions and insufficient or nonexistent safety measures. Exploitative working conditions, from construction to farm working, have heedlessly treated Black and brown immigrant lives as expendable.

Well beyond Baltimore, the deaths of these six men point to the essential role immigrants play in powering our country and the structural inequities and lack of political will to protect them at a national level. Nationwide, millions continue to be denied access to critical and permanent protections, including access to health care, affordable housing and a pathway to citizenship. This lack of legislative intention to include immigrants in all forms of protection has recklessly put countless of our lives at risk and left gaping wounds among families and entire communities left holding the grief of their loved ones whose tragic deaths were painfully preventable.

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At a state level, legislative attacks against immigrants are on the rise. From Texas to Georgia to Arizona and more, the places we all call home are facing a moment when our immigrant neighbors are continuously vilified and scapegoated for malicious political incentives. This demonization turns into real policies, such as Texas’ deportation legislation that would allow state police to racially profile and target Black and brown Texans they suspect are undocumented.

No one is made safer by these laws, and we all deserve better than the anti-immigrant actors who are trying to divide us by building walls and investing billions of dollars to target, detain and deport the very community members who are caring for our shared spaces.

Immigrants like the men on the Francis Scott Key Bridge ensure we can move freely throughout the communities we call home and keep us connected to our neighbors and families.

Now is the time to be unapologetic in demanding our elected officials on all levels lead with the humanity required to ensure every member of our community is cared for and protected, regardless of their immigration status. President Joe Biden must take action to grant relief to all immigrants in our communities.

This is our collective obligation and an urgent, necessary way for us to honor the legacies and lives of the Francis Scott Key Bridge workers. Let’s move forward together to defend immigrant lives.

Greisa Martinez Rosas, who received assistance under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is executive director of United We Dream. Gustavo Torres is executive director of CASA.

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