The coronavirus pandemic has challenged our way of life as we know it. From practicing social distancing to learning how to adjust to work remotely, everyone has been adapting to conform to stay-at-home guidelines and prevent the spread of the virus. But more than that, this pandemic has notably exposed the economic and racial inequalities this country has been experiencing for decades. Around the country, thousands of families are lining up outside of food banks, parents are skipping meals to feed their children, and many continue to fear the worst is far from over as states struggle to reopen. Among the most vulnerable are undocumented immigrants, who are at risk of hunger and calamitous financial uncertainty.
As coronavirus cases continue to rise everyday, businesses and corporations, including those considered “essential”, are struggling to make rent and stay financially afloat. For many, it may mean temporary lay offs or even filing for bankruptcy, closing down indefinitely. For most undocumented workers in “essential” businesses, staying at home and not showing up to work everyday isn’t a choice they can afford to make if they want to survive, putting many of these immigrants at risk of contracting the virus.
U.S Jobless Claims continue to reach thousands every week, at a decreasing rate.
As unemployment in the United States continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, many fear a catastrophic economic fall-out in the coming months. In the last week of April solely, 3.8 million more unemployment claims were filed. Currently, the number is reaching a staggering total of 33 million unemployment cases filed for benefits since the beginning of the lockdown, which doesn’t include workers who don’t qualify for federal unemployment benefits, such as those who are paid under the table or don’t have legal work authorization in the United States. Although many undocumented immigrants do pay taxes using a system of individual tax ID numbers, “those without Social Security numbers do not qualify for the recently created Paycheck Protection Program” according to a recent article published by NBC News. New COVID-19 relief bills passed by Congress, like the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), continue to exclude millions of immigrant communities and families, including DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status holders, and undocumented immigrants, from critical healthcare access to testing and treatment, as well as emergency food assisstance.
A food bank in Orange County, California. Photo: Los Angeles Times, 4/15/20.
Yet, around the nation we are seeing a growing effort to resolve this issue. In California, Gov. Newsom introduced a $125 million relief effort to provide financial assistance to undocumented families and workers in need. In Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot announced that undocumented immigrants will be eligible for coronavirus relief programs, unlike the federal relief bills that have continuously ignored and excluded them. Many charity organizations and NGOs are currently supporting thousands of food banks, deliveries, and distribution centers to feed poorer, more hard-hit communities throughout the country. National charities such as Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, and the American Red Cross Association are only some of the leading charities that are currently providing thousands of families in need with meals and access to healthcare, from low-income Americans to undocumented immigrants.
Local governments, non-profits, and thousands of front-liners and volunteers are stepping up and joining forces to help millions of undocumented immigrants fight this battle. Now more than ever, our nation must come together to conquer this common enemy and protect our most vulnerable communities.
If you are seeking help during this pandemic, please refer to our coronavirus resource list by clicking here.
-Bauer, Lauren. “The COVID-19 crisis has already left too many children hungry in America” Brookings.edu, May 6, 2020.
-Villa, Lissandra. “Undocumented Immigrants Are Essential But Exposed In the Coronavirus Pandemic”. Times Magazine, April 17, 2020.
-National Immigration Law Center. “Understanding the Impact of Key Provisions of COVID-19 Relief Bills on Immigrant Communities.” Nicl.org, April 1, 2020.
Written by [Refugees Welcome!] intern, Gaelle Einsweiler.
Olivia has been with [RW!] since January 2020 as the Executive Director’s intern. She studies International Politics, Spanish, and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania.