Monica Alarcon-Najarro, Contributing Writer
The U.S. has failed to properly handle the COVID-19 pandemic, so it’s no surprise that immigrant families — who have clocked in countless hours working labor-intensive jobs during a global health crisis — are the ones suffering endlessly from the economic downfall.
This country seems to always forget that immigrants are still part of the backbone keeping this country running. Not only do these families work inhumane jobs for dreadful hours during the week, but they also aren’t able to afford health care or even maintain a source of income should they fall ill.
About 28.4 million foreign-born people worked in the U.S. labor force in 2019, making up about 17.4% of the total, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. These workers include “legally-admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents such as students and temporary workers, and undocumented immigrants.”
Remember the stimulus checks that were given out to Americans for financial support? According to the IRS, undocumented immigrant families weren’t able to receive both stimulus checks due to their citizenship status and whether or not they had a Social Security number.
Miriam Delaney Heard, a senior attorney at the National Health Law Program in North Carolina who has represented people with appeals regarding Medicaid and other government policy benefits, says Latino communities who are undocumented have historically suffered through systemic racism in the U.S.
“Both undocumented immigrants and many lawfully residing immigrants are ineligible for Medicaid and other government benefits,” Heard stated in an article.
Since undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive government assistance, such as Medicaid, many of them cannot afford to get medical attention as they have to pay out of pocket. If they were to get sick, many undocumented workers have no way of getting paid sick days without running the risk of losing valuable income or even their jobs.
Undocumented immigrant families have been the most impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic as bills passed in Congress regarding financial support exclude them from receiving any form of assistance, according to the Urban Institute, a nonprofit research organization.
“Immigrant families are being disproportionately affected by the economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic, but so far, the supports included in federal stimulus legislation — including the economic impact payments and expanded unemployment insurance benefits — are not available to all immigrant families,” stated a release from the Urban Institute.
Hispanics living with non-citizens, aged 18 to 64, made up about 69% of people who lost their jobs or incomes in March and April. This is the highest percentage compared to Hispanics living with citizens, non-Hispanic white people and non-Hispanic Black people.
It is frustrating to see friends of mine –– who have undocumented parents –– struggle during this crucial time. Undocumented Latino families that have been unemployed due to COVID-19 can end up having no source of income when taking sick days, limiting their ability to provide for their family. The least these people could have been gifted with was a stimulus check.
After all, it did take Congress eight months to get a second stimulus check approved — which wasn’t even enough for most people to catch up on rent or feed their families.
It feels as though Latino communities are being prioritized less and less as time goes by, and politicians are making families of lower to middle classes fend for themselves.
I’m losing hope as to when immigrant families will be included when the topic of financial help is brought up for Latino people in America during this pandemic.
There has to be a way for undocumented families to be able to seek financial assistance without the fear of being deported back to their countries, which in most cases are extremely unsafe.
My heart goes out to all the families who have lost their main source of income during this pandemic and have had no way of regaining their financial security due to the lack of help the U.S. has provided.
There are families out there who are barely making ends meet due to this pandemic, and it is one of the many problems that still need to be addressed. The U.S. government does not care about Latino residents, and they have proven that again and again.
There has to be a voice given to them as these dark times are affecting each and every one of us in different ways.