What about those who are undocumented?

Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, there are undocumented immigrants who pay taxes but do not qualify for the recent stimulus package given to Americans. 

According to Vox, undocumented immigrants pay over 1.5 billion in taxes yearly in New York and New Jersey. During the COVID-19 outbreak, they are being affected along with everyone else. 

Johanna Juarez, a Saint Peter’s University freshman studying biology, said her dad, who is from Mexico and works as a landscaper, is continuing to work, but due to COVID-19, his job requires landscapers to work alone meaning one person to one lawn. 

Because of this, her mother, who has switched to at-home work, has been helping him landscape due to his increase in workload. Both of her parents pay taxes but are unable to receive aid during this time.

“I don’t believe it’s fair,” said Juarez. 

During quarantine, Juarez said they have been cutting down on spending because if not, money will become tight. 

Desiree Armas, an SPU junior studying environmental studies and social justice, said her parents have been stressed out since quarantine began. 

Throughout this time, her mom, who works for a non-profit organization, has continued to work at home, but her father is temporarily on leave.

She said her mother, who is not used to working at home, is becoming drained from the constant flood in phone calls received from her job. 

Both her parents contribute to paying taxes, and were heartbroken when they found out they did not qualify for the stimulus check because they are both undocumented. 

Armas expressed her concern about this.

“Although we do pay our fair share and contribute to the economy, it is still dehumanizing to only be seen and validated in this context alone,” said Armas. “Must we be “productive” in order to be recognized as human beings? Are we not the same? Apparently, to those in power, it’s not that simple.”

During this time when families are adjusting to new norms, and being laid off, a stimulus check can make a difference. 

“The undocumented community, including DACA recipients, TPS holders, DAPA eligible parents and U.S. born children of undocumented parents have been degraded, isolated and set aside for decades,” said Armas. “And this anti-immigrant campaign has reached its fullest potential with the conscious exclusion of undocumented folk, ITIN holders, mixed-status families, and young DACAmented students from receiving a much needed stimulus check.”

Many advocates have taken heed to this situation and are fighting for the rights of undocumented immigrants. Make the Road NJ, an organization founded in 2014 to fight for immigrants’ rights, has been especially vocal.

“They are starting petitions, calling folks and contacting our local officials in order to make much needed changes to the CARES Act,” said Armas.

They hope to have undocumented immigrants included in the next distribution of aid along with Armas, who said that the package should cover all families regardless of status. 

Currently, resources available to undocumented immigrants include health care coverage. Make The Road NJ has also collaborated with Rutgers Law School students to hold virtual DACA clinics on Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m. along with multiple minor reliefs. 

Maria Mendez Varillas, an SPU sophomore studying political science, communication and marketing, said that the undocumented community needs allies now more than ever. 

“There is no check coming to help us. In some cases, people were already surviving with less than a liveable wage. We are counting on our community and allies to have our backs,” said Mendez Varillas. 

Mendez Varillas, who supports Make the Road NJ, said that right now, the website has a page where people can directly donate part of their stimulus check to support low-income immigrant families. 

And across the United States, there is a larger campaign called #ShareMyCheck, that encourages people to raise money for families as well. 

As California became the first state to expand their aid to undocumented immigrants, the community hopes that New Jersey will do the same. 

“We are asking New Jersey to step up and be a leader in the protection and progress of immigrant rights - for all, not just some,” said Mendez Varillas. 

More recently, Governor Murphy has implemented a new order that allows foreign licensed individuals to carry medical licenses during this time and practice temporarily. 

Make the Road NJ took to Twitter to thank Governor Murphy, but still hopes for more efforts to be made. 

Other than big campaigns, some smaller reliefs are being made for undocumented workers within the community. 

Kimberly Rojas, an SPU freshman studying cyber security and criminal justice, said her mom was recently laid off along with many of her colleagues. The restaurant group that her mom works for has created a Go Fund Me to implement staff relief. 

But as the country remains in quarantine, it becomes harder for people to get together and campaign as before. Nevertheless, the fight for representation for the undocumented community continues. 

Mendez Varillas said now that there is a lack of gathering, it has pushed advocates to become more creative. 

She said there are people participating in driving rallies where they place signs on their cars and drive pass detention centers, beeping their horns. There are also many petitions and ongoing meetings to campaign.

“The world may be on pause but we are still undocumented and so we must still organize,” said Mendez Varillas. 

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