The COVID-19 public health crisis arrived without warning, and there is no foreseeable end. I often think about my mother during these unprecedented times. My mother is 46 years old, and although she’s not in a high-risk age group, I feel uneasy thinking about her experience as an immigrant woman during a pandemic. I think of the language barrier that my mother experiences and the COVID-19 misinformation that comes with that. I ponder how during these times working from home would be the most suitable for her health and age. Unfortunately, my mother and many other immigrant essential workers do not have that privilege.
Foreign-born residents make up a large percentage of the essential workforce in the state. Immigrant families in New Mexico, and across the country, have seen zero benefits from the stimulus packages or any other form of federal economic relief. A recent report by N.M. Voices for Children states immigrants pay $67 million in state and local taxes and, despite the contributions, immigrant families will not see unemployment benefits or access to affordable high-quality health care.
In order to address the huge disparities immigrant families and other vulnerable populations were facing economically, the New Mexico Dream Team and NACA Inspired School Network assembled the Stronger Together fund. Through this effort we’ve provided over 500 families across New Mexico with $500 stipends. This emergency assistance fund has proven itself extremely helpful as evidenced by the stories of shared experiences and support.
Like the story of Luis Enrique Bautista Lopez, a 25-year-old DACA recipient living in Albuquerque, originally from Veracruz, Mexico. Both of his parents lost their jobs due to staff cuts in the restaurant where they were employed. Luis’ father was particularly upset being that he had made a living as a dishwasher at the same restaurant for 15 years. Because of the income deficit, the Lopez family couldn’t pay for their home internet, which created difficulties for Luis’s younger sister who relied on it to finish her semester in high school. Thanks to the $500 stipend provided by the Stronger Together fund, Luis was able to pay for three months’ worth of home internet for his younger sister.
Another example is Josefina Lujan, originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, who has been living in Bloomfield with her children for over 15 years. Josefina was grateful for the financial help because she had been unable to pay her water bill, and the stipend was used to bring back running water to her home, alleviating a major issue to continue to weather the pandemic from home.
These stories are only two chosen from a long list of families who, like my mother, are considered essential workers in this COVID-19 health crisis. Essential yet excluded from almost all forms of federal relief. Our state and local governments should continue to do everything possible to support the well-being of families in New Mexico, including immigrant families. Together we must help strengthen our communities and pass economic relief packages and policies that are inclusive of all residents regardless of immigration status.