Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE
Local organizations provide resources to immigrant families, who face unique challenges during pandemic
While COVID-19 has widely impacted communities everywhere, immigrant communities have faced added difficulties unique to their situation.
Yolo County Supervisor Jim Provenza noted that for many farmworkers and immigrants in Yolo County, the COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in a significant decrease of work hours or in job loss entirely. Undocumented immigrants have faced additional problems because many were unable to qualify for government aid or resources, and they also struggled with finding legal representation.
Co-chair of Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network (YIIN) Ignacio Alarcón stated via email that “COVID-19 shaped immigration broadly in many ways, such as with travel bans, border closures, asylum limits, pausing refugee resettlement, and more.”
Alarcón further explained that immigrants make up about one-sixth of the 156 million person civilian workforce, and also make up greater proportions of healthcare workers and other frontline roles such as restaurant workers, hotel workers, cleaning services, etc.
“They are faced with significantly elevated COVID-19 risk as a result,” Alarcón said. “Disastrously paired with an elevated likelihood of lacking health insurance compared to U.S.-born peers.”
Supervisor Provenza further commented on how immigrant workers can experience less safe working conditions.
“They’re working in situations where there isn’t necessarily the same protection,” Provenza said. “Sometimes, the rules aren’t enforced at the workplace […] and having somebody who can help them through the [reporting] process is really essential.”
The Director of the UC Davis AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, Laura M. Bohórquez García, explained that COVID-19 increased demand for grants at the center.
“We saw an increase in emergency grants because there [were] a lot of students and families who were losing their jobs,” García said. “They didn’t have the types of jobs that provided health insurance or didn’t have access to resources.”
Alarcón explained that Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network started the ApoYolo Program. The official website described ApoYolo as “a team of culturally competent, trained bilingual volunteers to identify and work with families with undocumented members to assist them with obtaining available services from the Yolo Food Bank, Empower Yolo and local clinics.”
Alarcón further described this initiative. The initiative provided basic needs to immigrants, largely due to “community donations, bilingual volunteer support, and chief stewardship of the ApoYolo initiative by Anoosh Jorjorian.” $20,000 in funds were initially raised from community contributions and grant writing. This $20,000 amount was matched by the Travis Credit Union Foundation, which resulted in a total of $40,000 for immigrant families in the Davis community.
García addressed how the center was able to further extend their help. Due to an increase in need from the immigrant community, the center was able to increase their budget on emergency grants, as well as increase one-on-one meetings with students.
“The biggest role right now for the center is to continue to build that community and share those resources,” García said. “It really is taking a larger institutional commitment for [undocumented students] to be able to graduate from UC Davis.”
Supervisor Provenza further emphasized the importance of organizations such as Yolo Interfaith Immigration Network, calling the work they do “essential.”
“If things got worse, the immigrant community would be the first to suffer—and suffer more,” Provenza said. “Having them available is really important so that we can adjust what we do to try and help better as well.”
Alarcón commented about community-based fundraisers that can fill in funding gaps for immigrants left by the federal government.
“YIIN is important because our Immigrant communities continue to be [under-resourced] and unacknowledged by our federal government at large: xenophobia continues to serve as foundational bedrock for the United States’ policies and resource allocation […]” Alarcón said. “Being able to validate the concerns and experiences of our county’s Immigrants while addressing the material injustices at play right now is vital for our community’s well-being.”
García further commented on the strength of the immigrant community, despite the pandemic and economic crisis.
“Our community is very bold and courageous—and very willing to do collaborative and collective work,” García said. “I definitely am very hopeful for all of the ways that our community has engaged so far.”
“The future will continue to be shaped by the ways our Immigrants continue to advocate with cultural wealth, community-based connections for support, and solidarity with movements prioritizing social justice,” Alarcón said. “I look forward to our continued engagement combatting systems of inequality that disproportionately affect our community.”
Written By: Jelena Lapuz — firstname.lastname@example.org