California IAF Leverages Covid-19 Relief for Undocumented Immigrants Using Old-School Practices on New Technologies
When politics, like most other activities, was forced to migrate online, the IAF didn’t seem an obvious winner. For 80 years, the group has embraced one-on-one conversations and “house meetings” to create organized communities whose strong bonds endure beyond a single campaign. These relationships, forged in person, smoothed the transition to digital organizing.
After the virus hit, a flurry of texts, calls and social media outreach followed as California’s IAF groups scrambled to get their people on Zoom calls. The news was grim: Budgets were tight and layoffs widespread. Undocumented people, often the hardest-hit population, were excluded from most forms of aid. The Cal-EITC push emerged from these digital house meetings. “It came from the lament of the people,” said the Rev. Arturo Corral of Our Lady Queen of Angels / La Placita Catholic Church in Los Angeles, a One LA leader.
In late April, local leaders began gathering Zoom participants from their local networks. Meanwhile, organizers sought out influential lawmakers, focusing on three Budget Committee members: State Assembly members David Chiu and Eloise Gómez Reyes and State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo. All three pledged to work to expand the tax credit.
The IAF groups were “not at all” confident that the tax credit expansion would end up in the governor’s budget. “Most people told us this was not going to happen,” [One LA Lead Organizer Robert] Hoo said. But after weeks of further organizing, it was included in Gov. Newsom’s June 30 budget.
[Photo Credit: Brent Stirton/Getty Images]
On Tuesday evening, May 5, over 1,200 California IAF leaders, 10 Bishops and 7 state legislators converged on Zoom and Facebook Live to demand the Governor and legislature provide immediate relief for essential workers left out of state and federal relief.
"There are millions of California workers who take care of our elders, our children, grow our food, and get it to the stores. Many of them are undocumented, but their work contributes billions of dollars to the California economy," said Rev. Dr. Julie Roberts-Fronk, Co-Chair of the action and a leader with ICON.
Undocumented immigrants represent 10% of the California workforce, pay over $3 billion in state and local taxes and add $180 billion to the economy. They comprise 33% of agricultural workers and 32% of healthcare workers in California, working at great personal risk during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"During this pandemic, there is a tendency to throw people to the margins, to throw them into the shadows,"said Bishop Jaime Soto, of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento.
"What we need to do is develop a culture of encounter, a culture of solidarity to beat back the coronavirus and to create a healthy and safe network. We need to recognize the flaw in the Cal EITC. It leaves out California workers and taxpayers, which not only jeopardizes their lives, it also jeopardizes the well being of the entire state of California."
"Immigrant workers are not draining our economy, they are subsidizing it," said Senator Maria Elena Durazo. "We would not be the fifth largest economy in the world without them."
Earlier this month, the California IAF and the California Catholic Conference wrote letters to Governor Newsom, urging him to expand the California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC) to include ITIN filers, many of whom are undocumented. The tax credit would put much needed dollars quickly back into the hands of working families. Studies show that for every 1 dollar invested in workers, the local economy generates 2 dollars.
Maria Elena Manzo, a leader with COPA has worked with a group of women in Salinas for many years to spread the word about the Cal EITC.
"When they first learned about the tax credit, they were very excited. One woman said, 'this is going to come at a perfect time, the agricultural season has not started yet and we are struggling right now.' Her hopes vanished when she learned she wasn’t going to get the credit, but it did not stop her from helping others."
Leaders secured commitments from state legislators to work with their six organizations to advance the legislation during upcoming budget hearings, and to press the Governor to find the money. They also committed to meeting with local organizations within two weeks, and joining regional civic academies on the issue to build a larger constituency.
Immigrant Workers Face Economic Uncertainty During Covid-19 Shutdown, America Magazine [pdf]
Faith Leaders Call on State to Support Undocumented Immigrants, The Pajaronian [pdf]
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans on April 15 to make $75 million available to help undocumented workers left out of unemployement relief programs like the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act known as CARES. It could mean $500 each in the hands of 150,000 adults after applications start being accepted next month....
“Governor Newsom’s plan to help undocumented immigrants is woefully inadequate...What is owed in justice should never be given to charity. While we commend Governor Newsom for having good intentions, far more is needed to provide effective and equitable relief for undocumented workers and their families.”
-- Janet Hirsch, leader with One LA-IAF.
[COPA-IAF, One LA-IAF, and Inland Communities Organizing Network (ICON), Common Ground and Bay Area IAF] called for several initiatives to help undocumented workers including: expanding the eligibility of State Disability Insurance to workers unemployed because of Covid-19 but ineligible for unemployment insurance; sending $1,200 to any Californian who qualified for the California Earned Income Tax Credit last year or this year; expanding no-cost to low-cost hotel options to agricultural workers; making more money available to food banks and school districts feeding students.
[Photo by Nic Coury, Monterey County Weekly]
Newsom Announces Covid-19 Relief For Undocumented Workers; Advocates Say It's Inadequate, Monterey County Weekly
Letter to Governor Newsom, California IAF
After months of organizing work by One LA leaders -- and building on leaders' successful efforts to launch MHLA and enroll thousands of residents in the program -- the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health announced plans to invest $5.6 million to enhance My Health LA (MHLA) with mental health services.
This move will allow approximately 145,000 low-income Angelenos who currently receive health care through the County's MHLA program to access prevention services that will reduce the risk of developing potentially serious mental illness. MHLA primarily serves low-income and undocumented immigrants who have no other access to health coverage. MHLA did not previously cover mental health as a funded benefit.
With standing room only, 300 delegates from One LA member and guest institutions convened on Sunday, July 21, 2019 at Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills to set an ambitious agenda for 2020.
"Our 2020 vision is a roadmap to building power," said Nancy Goldstone, Co-Chair of the assembly and member of Temple Beth Am. "I don't need to tell you that it will be a watershed year, nationally and locally. While many will be focusing on the presidential election, half of LA city council and half of LAUSD board members are up for election, and we have a major contest in LA County Supervisor's District 2. That is where decisions are made that affect us daily."
Teams of leaders from across LA County shared stories about what is at stake around One LA's four issue campaigns: immigration, housing, human trafficking and mental health. "We need our state senators, county supervisors and city council members to do more to protect immigrants," shared Yadira Mireles, on the immigration team at San Gabriel Mission. "People need lawyers. They need good information. People coming out of detention need shelter and services. We can't just be a sanctuary city in name only. We want elected officials who will work with us so that Los Angeles will truly be a place that welcomes immigrants."
State Senator Holly Mitchell and City Attorney Mike Feuer joined the assembly and reacted to One LA's vision for building power. When asked if she would join One LA leaders in a listening campaign on mental health issues, Senator Mitchell rose to the challenge and offered to co-host a session. City Attorney Feuer laid out specific ways his office would work with One LA on all four issue campaigns, encouraging leaders to contact his office directly in cases of immigration fraud, intelligence on human traffickers, and housing fraud.
One LA leaders then caucused by region on specific strategies to build more power ahead of the 2020 elections, including broadening and expanding their constituencies through recruiting other institutions, and raising more hard money to hire and train organizers. "Hard money is our favorite kind of money," said Janet Hirsch of Temple Isaiah. "It is money that we control, and that lets us set our agenda on our own terms and our own time." Leaders pledged $200,000 in hard money commitments for 2020.
Before adjourning, leaders unanimously ratified a proposal to organize candidates forums and conduct a robust Get out the Vote Campaign ahead of the 2020 elections.
Money Matters: A Reflection, by Diane Vanette, leader of One LA and Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills
One LA leaders and allies from St. John's Well Child and Family Center, Clinica Romero and the Building Healthy Communities effort in Boyle Heights testified in support of the program's preservation.
The Board of Supervisors also voted to direct the Director of Mental Health to come up with a funding plan for providing mental health services to MHLA patients at primary care settings. This is a major step forward toward increasing access to mental health services, which has been a big priority for One LA. Leaders recognized Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Katherine Barger for introducing the motion, and the entire Board of Supervisors for addressing the need for increased access to mental health services.
500 One LA-IAF leaders assembled with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss implementation of the recently passed linkage fee for affordable housing at St. Agnes Catholic Church, and to report on what is happening in their neighborhoods. Representing the first community organization with which the Mayor met, leaders challenged him to more deeply collaborate with the organization in the next few months.Read more
Publicly speaking for the very first time, three parents shared how 1 of 8 children in San Fernando area schools experience some degree of homelessness, often resulting in disruptions of academic progress and difficulties in staying awake for class.Read more
The newly re-energized Immigration Strategy Team is now crafting a vision / action plan they will take to LA County and state-elected leaders to ensure that all families, including blended immigrant families â€“ those with US citizens and unauthorized immigrants â€“ are protected and treated fairly. This task force also plans to challenge unconstitutional orders and implementation practices by federal immigration and other law enforcement agencies.
One LA leaders celebrated a second election victory for the most vulnerable in Los Angeles County after the March 7 election. Together, with a coalition of other organizations and with the support of County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, leaders worked to pass Measure Hâ€” a quarter cent sales tax to fund critical services for homeless populations as well as homelessness prevention for those at risk.Read more