The current Covid-19 pandemic has severely compounded the issues affecting undocumented and mixed-status families including concerns about finances, employment, access to health care, and the threat of deportation. In this post, we detail some of the main challenges that immigrant families are currently experiencing and key steps that allies can take to provide support.
Like the millions of individuals across the country who have filed for unemployment in the recent weeks, undocumented immigrants and their loved ones are also losing their jobs or seeing a reduction in working hours due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many others with pre-existing health conditions are also fearful of continuing to expose themselves at work (often times without adequate access to Personal Protective Equipment, paid leave, hazard pay, or health insurance coverage).
Despite these circumstances, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for most forms of financial assistance. Without a legal immigration status, undocumented community members do not qualify for federal unemployment benefits. The Trump administration also decided to exclude undocumented immigrants and their spouses from the Covid-19 stimulus checks and is preventing undocumented college students from accessing emergency aid.
Several organizations across the country such as the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) and New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) are providing critical financial assistance to undocumented folks (for an up-to-date list of emergency aid funds available, check this post).
How Allies Can Help
Organizations like Cosecha are also asking folks who have the financial means to pledge part of their stimulus checks to support undocumented immigrants.
Allies can support in the following ways: (1) donating to these organizations; (2) spreading the word about these funds; (3) helping to crowdsource funds within your network; (4) volunteering with local immigrant rights groups to collect/distribute emergency aid; and (5) urging the federal/state/local governments to support undocumented immigrants and their loved ones.
In addition to the financial strain that undocumented and mixed-status families are experiencing, many are also affected by inadequate access to health services. Insurance coverage remains largely limited to those who have access to a legal immigration status or a stable/high income. Many families may also hesitate to seek medical care because of the fear of deportation.
Allies can support families access health services in a number of ways, including: (1) identifying a list of local community clinics and licensed therapists that provide physical/mental health care to those without insurance; (2) offering to call the clinic in advance to ensure eligibility; (3) offering families a ride to see a doctor; (4) sharing a list of resources available to all regardless of immigration status; and (5) providing emotional support for family members.
It is also important to keep in mind that families are experiencing increased feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety as the fate of DACA remains uncertain and concerns about changes in immigration policy under the current administration intensify—a reality that is compounded by the fear of being apprehended, losing one’s employment, experiencing food insecurity, and coping with pre-existing medical conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It is imperative that allies check-in with families with questions such as:
(1) Is there anything I can be of help with? (2) Can I help you look into food banks, updates on DACA, DACA renewal assistance, or anything else? (3) Do you need a ride to the clinic, grocery store, laundry mat, etc? (4) Do you want to talk over the phone? (5) Do you need me to make calls anywhere (e.g., to a clinic, lawyer, therapist, social service provider, etc)? (6) Do you have enough to cover rent, food, and other essentials this month? I am here for you.
These check-ins can act as powerful reminders that undocumented folks and their loved ones are not alone. These steps can also help lessen some of the burden that immigration policies and enforcement practices impose on families.
Families where a loved one is currently inside a detention center, undergoing deportation proceedings, or is living outside of the U.S. post-deportation are also largely coping in isolation with growing fears about the spread of the coronavirus in detention centers or abroad.
(1) Allies can provide direct support to families by offering emotional and financial support; (2) joining efforts calling for the immediate release of detained migrants; (3) supporting an ongoing campaign to stop a community member’s deportation proceedings (or helping start a campaign); and (4) volunteering with local immigrant rights groups currently providing legal and financial assistance to immigrant families directly impacted by enforcement practices.
It is also very important to continue our advocacy efforts across the country to ensure undocumented immigrants obtain health care access, expanded access to opportunities (e.g., driver’s licenses, higher education), work authorization, and relief from deportation. The New York Immigration Coalition has outlined several key steps that the local, state, and federal governments can take to support immigrant families, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are many ways that allies can support families during these unsettling and challenging times. Be sure to comment below to share your ideas with others!
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