Victims of Baltimore Bridge Collapse Were Mexican & Central American Immigrant Workers

Six construction workers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico are presumed dead after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Maryland Bridge Collapse

In this aerial image released by the Maryland National Guard, the cargo ship Dali is stuck under part of the structure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after the ship hit the bridge, Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Baltimore. (Maryland National Guard via AP)

The Latinx community that despite immigrants being crucial to the foundation of the U.S.’s economy, culture, and infrastructure, they’re not always treated that way. Especially when they’re undocumented, Latin American immigrants are often subjected to hard physical labor, unfair pay, exploitative work practices, a lack of health insurance, and poor mental health, all without labor protection. Sometimes they face intentional acts of violence like the attacks on street vendors and other times they’re victims of larger uncontrollable situations. On Tuesday morning, one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland was struck by a container ship at 1:29 a.m., causing the entire bridge to collapse. In addition to several cars, eight construction workers from Brawner Builder were on the bridge at the time repairing potholes and fell into the water as well. Two of the workers survived, with one refusing medical care and the other was taken to the hospital with extensive injuries. The rest of the eight were missing and have since been presumed dead. All of the men, including the survivors, were immigrants in their 20s, 30s, and 40s from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico, the The Baltimore Banner reported.

“What this shows us is how vital immigrants are to the infrastructure of the country,” state Del. Ashanti Martinez (D-Prince George’s), chair of the Maryland Legislative Latino Caucus, said, Maryland Matters reported. “When we’re at home asleep, they’re getting up in the middle of the night making sacrifices so we can have commerce and comfort.”

The six victims of the bridge collapse came from Mexico and Central America including two Guatemalans from San Luis, Petén and Camotán, Chiquimula; a father of three from El Salvador; a father of two from Honduras; and two men from the states of Veracruz and Michoacán in Mexico, according to their respective country’s governments. So far, the names of a few of the victims have been released to the public including Dorlian Castillo Cabrera,26, Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes,35, and Martin Suazo Sandoval. Two of their bodies have been recovered, according to the head of the Maryland State Police, but search and rescue operations have been suspended until divers can safely search the area for the rest of the missing victims. Julio Cervantes was one of eight construction workers on the bridge and he and one other man were rescued that day.

“All of the men were on a break in their cars when the boat hit. We don’t know if they were warned before the impact,” Cervantes’ wife, who did not disclose her name, told NBC News. “My husband doesn’t know how to swim. It is a miracle he survived.”

The debris complicated the search for the workers, according to a Homeland Security memo described to The Associated Press. The publication also reported that the state transportation officer on duty radioed two of its units already stationed at each end of the bridge to close the bridge to vehicle traffic about two minutes before impact. One officer parked sideways to block traffic and planned to drive onto the bridge to alert the construction crew once another officer arrived but it was too late.

“It’s a really heartbreaking conclusion to a challenging day,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said in a news conference shortly after ending the search for the missing men. “We put every single asset possible – air, land and sea assets – to add to the members’ survivability for these families. While even though we’re moving on now to a recovery mission, we’re still fully committed to making sure that we’re going to use every single asset to now bring a sense of closure to the families.”

The Francis Scott Key Bridge has been a fixture in Baltimore since 1977 and is considered an essential state highway system for drivers and for commerce. Meanwhile, Baltimore has been home to thousands of immigrants from all over the world for decades. As of 2016, the city is made up of 292,100 immigrants, or 10 percent of the city’s population, and over half are undocumented and at constant risk of deportation.

The Latino Racial Justice Circle, a non-profit organization serving the Baltimore area, set up a crowdfunding campaign that has raised more than $98,000 for the victims’ families as of Thursday. The campaign originally had a goal of $18,000 and since exceeding it they’ve closed the campaign to distribute the funds to families. They’re directing those interested in donating to the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Key Bridge Emergency Response Fund.

“One of the reasons Latinos were involved in this accident is because Latinos do the work that others do not want to do. We have to do it, because we come here for a better life. We do not come to invade the country,” Lucia Islas, president of Comité Latino de Baltimore, a nonprofit group, told Reuters.

The investigation into exactly what happened is conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and anticipated to take one to two years.

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