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Migrant Workers and Disaster Economics

Presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU.


From 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to the coronavirus pandemic, the US has relied on migrant workers to perform dangerous emergency labor for the public good. In times of crisis, these workers have salvaged and restored our physical infrastructure, kept our food systems functioning, and tended to the sick and injured. Yet, again and again, our governments and private employers have failed to safeguard these responders’ basic human rights—to decent wages, benefits, immigration privileges, housing, and health and safety. What laws and other structures allow for the abuses of “disaster capitalism”? How do histories of exclusion, colonialism, and US warfare shape the essential workforce? And how are workers fighting back?

This special event brings together Saket Soni, the author of the new book, The Great Escape (Algonquin Books, 2023), about trafficked Indian migrants who won a daring campaign for their rights after Hurricane Katrina; Nathan Fitch and Angela Edward, the creators of the work-in-progress film, Essential Islanders, about Micronesian laborers in Arkansas and their struggle for healthcare during the pandemic; and the A/P/A Institute’s Writer-in-Residence, E. Tammy Kim, who reports on workplace issues and is writing a manuscript about transpacific military labor.

COVID-19 & NYU campus access guidelines: This is an in-person event, open to the public. Registration is required. All attendees must be able to present proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and boosted with an FDA-authorized or WHO-listed vaccine. Non-NYU guests may be asked to present a government-issued photo ID. NYU guests must present their NYU ID. It is strongly recommended that audience members wear a well-fitted mask while in the theater.

Accessibility noteThis venue is wheelchair accessible, and has an elevator. If you have any access needs, please email apa.rsvp@nyu.edu.



Angela Edward is a Micronesian American social worker and activist based in Michigan. She has a long history in community service, public health, and harm reduction, advocating for families facing homelessness, young people, elders, and people impacted by mental illness.

Nathan Fitch is a filmmaker and a professor at The New School. His award-winning feature, Island Soldier, documents US military veterans in Micronesia. His most recent projects are Drawing Life, about cartoonist George Booth, and Essential Islanders, which A/P/A Institute at NYU will screen as a work-in-progress.

E. Tammy Kim is the 2022-23 Writer-in-Residence at the A/P/A Institute at NYU, where she’s working on a project about militarism and migration between the US and South Korea. She’s a writer at The New Yorker and a co-host of the podcast Time to Say Goodbye.

Saket Soni is the author of the new book, The Great Escape (Algonquin Books, 2023), and the director of Resilience Force, an organization that advocates for disaster-response workers in the US. He’s a longtime labor and immigrant-rights organizer who, in 2011, founded the National Guestworker Alliance.


Venue: NYU Cantor Film Center, Theater 200
36 E. 8th Street
New York, NY 10003 US
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Add to Calendar 04/10/2023 06:30 PM 04/10/2023 08:30 PM America/New_York Migrant Workers and Disaster Economics More detail: https://apa.nyu.edu/event/migrant-workers-and-disaster-economics/ NYU Cantor Film Center, Theater 200, New York, NY, 10003