Undocumented families struggle to receive financial relief during COVID-19 pandemic

Chicago nonprofits are raising funds to help undocumented families and individuals financially struggling because of the coronavirus. 

President Donald Trump signed a stimulus package on March 27 that will provide financial relief to individuals and businesses financially struggling from the COVID-19 outbreak, but the bill excludes undocumented individuals from receiving any federal aid. 

“That’s great, but you are forgetting a third of the population who are not US citizens… they are still fundamental to your society,” Yessenia said, a sociology student at Dominican University.  

Yesenia and her parents are part of that population of undocumented immigrants, many of whom pay taxes and take essential jobs but will not receive a check or be able to apply for unemployment insurance. 

Her parents, who own a clothing business, were working in a cereal-packing factory before the current measures were taken, she said. They were planning to return to their family business but had to remain in their current job due to the closure of non-essential businesses. 

Yesenia said both of her younger sisters have a pre-existing respiratory condition, which worries her mother since she must go out to work daily to be able to support her family and supply the lost income from the closure of their business.

“All that essential food that people are buying, my parents are packing it,” she said. “The idea that terrifies my mother is that if she gets sick, what will happen? Who will pay those medical bills?” 

Arturo Santos, director of the Latinx Council of Gage Park, said the lack of government support for undocumented families leaves them with no source of income or no choice but to work, regardless of their risks or health factors. 

“This is an irresponsible and inhumane way of treating people during a global crisis,” Santos said. 

The Gage Park Latinx Council has launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds for undocumented families in the South West side of Chicago. Others, like the Chicago Community Response Fund COVID-19  have awarded nonprofits like the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council funds to assist members of their community. 

Andrea Ortiz-Landin, lead organizer of Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said the organization was awarded $2,500 and plans to distribute the funds “in the form of $500 individual grants to help support the financial needs of our families.” 

Organizations like the Betancourt Macias Family Scholarship formed a list of resources to assist undocumented families looking for help. 

These funds offer direct financial relief to families who have no other form of support, Santos said. But the funds won’t last forever. 

“The fund will offer some families temporary financial relief that buys them time, but we need legislators and government officials to step up and create policies and changes that offer more sustainable assistance to our communities — not only in times of pandemic, but always,” he said.