After the Covid-19 pandemic precipitated an economic crisis of historic proportions, the Industrial Areas Foundation launched a campaign calling on Congress to provide direct monthly aid for the duration of the crisis to American workers -- regardless of their citizenship.
While the recently passed $2.2 Trillion emergency stimulus will provide adults a one-time $1,200 check, it is set to leave out undocumented immigrants -- including those who pay taxes using a Tax Identification Number. IAF organizations across the West / Southwest IAF working with immigrant communities lay out the implications of this decision below:
Health care is a concern to both undocumented immigrants and legal residents.... Last August, the Trump administration tightened restrictions on legal immigrants who receive government benefits, referred to as 'public charges.' The new policy denies green cards to many immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps and other benefits.
Immigrants in the Dallas area mask their symptoms so they can continue to work, according to Josephine López Paul, lead organizer with Dallas Area Interfaith.
“We’ve seen our service industries obliterated,” said Ms. López Paul. “Immigrants are being hit the hardest right now and there’s no safety net for them.”
When undocumented immigrants do approach hospitals, they quickly turn away if they see any law enforcement present, according to Ana Chavarin, lead organizer of Pima County Interfaith in Tucson, Ariz. Families are less afraid of the virus itself and more concerned with how they would pay for a long-term hospital visit, she said.
Ms. Chavarin has met with families who, not knowing how long the pandemic will last or when they will find work again, have begun rationing food. “Because they are undocumented, they cannot apply for any kind of help,” she said. Some have U.S. citizen children and could apply for benefits on their behalf, she said. But fear of deportation keeps many from doing so.
Food is the number one concern for pastors in Houston, according to Elizabeth Valdez, lead organizer for The Metropolitan Organization. Some parishes and congregations have started to purchase gift cards for food while others are collecting items for the church pantry. Local chapters of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul are gathering items, but since they often count on elderly volunteers, it has been a challenge.
Children cut off from school presents another challenge for low-income families. “The kids being home, [families] don’t always have the technology they need to keep up with school,” Ms. Valdez said.
“There has to be a way to get the money into the hands of service workers,” said Joe Rubio, director of the West/Southwest Industrial Area Foundation, a community organizing network. Pastors are seeing an increase in domestic violence, he said, likely stemming from frustration, economic pressure and children being home from school. Studies have found that immigrant survivors of domestic violence are unlikely to report abuse to law enforcement. Isolation and behavioral health issues have the potential to lead to an increase in suicide rates, he said.
“This could profoundly change the nature of parishes and congregations,” Mr. Rubio said, referring not only to the economic impact of the coronavirus but also how communities respond to those in need during the crisis. “We have to think about how we compensate those making the biggest sacrifices and how we ramp up the economy once it’s over.”
[Photo Credit: John Locher, AP Photo]
In fall of 2018, the federal government proposed redefining who might be considered a “public charge” -- a federal designation for people it believes are overly dependent on federally-funded social services. Under proposed changes, immigrants who are "likely at any time" to become a public charge could be ineligible to get visas and green cards that give them legal permanent residency.
Dallas Area Interfaith soon began receiving calls from parents of US-born children who stopped getting medical care and nutrition assistance for their kids. In response, DAI began organizing parish-based efforts to educate and urge the public to weigh in on the proposed changes .
“We have already heard stories of parents un-enrolling their kids from CHIP,” Lead Organizer Josephine Lopez-Paul said. “It is another piece in building a culture of fear.”
It is through congregation-based relationships and networks that DAI is educating the public about ways to take action on this issue.
[Photo Credit: Obed Manual, Dallas Morning News]
This past week, many of us sat down with our extended families at Thanksgiving celebrations. As faith leaders, we teach that family is sacred. We are moved to keep families together, so they may thrive together.
The Trump administration has proposed a policy that would force immigrant families to make an impossible choice between caring for their children, parents and grandparents and keeping their family together in the United States. The proposed changes to the 100-year-old “public charge” regulation will make it more difficult for an immigrant to become a legal permanent resident or obtain a visa to visit the United States if he is not wealthy, have a preexisting health condition, or participate in programs that support health, nutrition and housing stability....
Don't Penalize Children for Being Poor, Especially After Harvey, Houston Chronicle [pdf]
Forty members from St. John the Evangelist Church and the neighborhood attended a civic academy yesterday to learn about “public charge.” This new policy by the Trump Administration’s Department of Homeland Security would affect many legal immigrants who are applying for permanent residency (green cards) and penalize applicants if they or their families have received government support such as SNAP (food stamps), subsidized health care, and other support that the government has labeled a “public charge.”
As rumors of this new policy surfaced, immigrant churches and Pima County Interfaith started conducting research. The fear began a few months ago when the press began to talk again about this policy. Rumors and misinformation led many immigrants to renounce their citizen children’s benefits out of fear. Among those immigrants most affected by this proposal are low-income families, single mothers, and children with chronic illnesses.
At Sunday’s session, a single mother asked if she could lose her permanent residency if she continued to receive AHCCCS, Arizona’s version of Medicaid, for her infant baby. Fortunately, she received her visa through the VAWA program that so far is exempt from being a 'public charge.'
After the session, some attendees thanked the St. John team for making this presentation. They said they felt more relaxed now that they knew which programs would be counted as 'public charge.'
A young mother said, "I'm going to register for citizenship classes and I'm going to apply to become a citizen. I'm afraid this administration will find another way to revoke my residency and separate me from my family."