“First we stayed home for over a month because of the US ban, then we worked part-time, and now we are pulling 12-hour shifts,” says Krishna, who works at WRP Asia-Pacific in Kuala Lumpur. “My ageing parents are concerned about the disease, and are pressuring me to come home. I tell them I am safe, my hours are good and the money is for our future so I try to remain optimistic.”
While workers like Krishna are indoors in factories making life-saving healthcare equipment, other Nepali migrants outside are subjected to large-scale unannounced raids and discrimination.
Post-pandemic mental health epidemic, Sonia Awale
Nepalis are frontline workers in the stressed healthcare system in New York and in glove factories in Malaysia, proving the vital role migrants play regardless of their legal status or profession. The expectation that the visibility of migrants’ contributions during this crisis will lead to lasting shifts in migration governance is, however, questionable.
Public memory is short-lived but even in the midst of the pandemic, while foreign doctors like Lamichhane are saving lives inside New York hospitals, the Trump administration has temporarily banned immigrants from seeking permanent residency while working on plans to halt work-related visas as well.
Says Jenny Lamichhane in New York: “I used to cry every day in the beginning, due to stress of being exposed and bringing it home to my 21-month daughter. But when families started to thank me for taking care of their loved ones, it made me realise that my impact goes beyond my patients. Giving them emotional and moral support gives me strength, and makes me feel a little better.”