COVID-19 impact on undocumented immigrant community

News 18 spoke with two undocumented mothers who say they are finding it particularly hard to survive this pandemic.

Posted: Apr 27, 2020 11:06 PM

GREATER LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Indiana is home to nearly 100,000 undocumented immigrants. And several thousand live within our viewing area. News 18 spoke with two undocumented mothers who say they are finding it particularly hard to survive this pandemic.

"Families were already struggling before and with this coronavirus knocking a lot of people out of work, it has made things even more difficult," said Monica Casanova, vice president of Greater Lafayette Immigrant Allies.

This is the case for the two undocumented mothers who spoke with us. They say they are struggling after their recent job cuts. Now they're left wondering how they're going to make money.

"My job is to clean houses," said one mother. "The ladies I clean houses for don't want me in their house because of the coronavirus. I'm also afraid to drive because if I drive then I'm exposing myself to being asked if my job is essential."

The other mother shares similar feelings.

"It has been difficult, I was furloughed two weeks ago," said the mother. "I'm not holding my breath because I know I'm not going to be eligible for relief. I have some savings and I value those savings, and Hispanic families are very united so we help each other out."

Although hundreds of thousands of people working in America have been furloughed, the undocumented community is one group that does not qualify for state or federal aid.

"It's very sad because we also pay taxes and get nothing," said one mother.

GLIA President Margaret Hass said undocumented workers pay sales tax and many pay taxes through an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN.) Both mothers have lived undocumented in the community for around 20 years and Hass said that's not necessarily by choice. She said the pathway to becoming a U.S. citizen is complicated.

"The myth that you can just somehow get in line and do it the right way is really frustrating," said Hass. "A lot of people have no pathway to status."

She said most undocumented immigrants live in mixed-status families, this can happen through marriage, one family member becoming a permanent resident, or undocumented parents having U.S. born children.

In addition to many undocumented workers not being able to work, Hass is also concerned about the ones that are. She said the jobs many undocumented people work are ones that are more vulnerable to easily spreading COVID-19.

"Undocumented immigrants in our community are working in healthcare, are working in the service industry, working in construction, working in our factories. and I think this pandemic is showing how connected we really are," said Hass.

The undocumented mothers say they've both been using local schools and churches to help provide food for their families. They say they're hoping to find work soon.

"Undocumented immigrants, just like us have the same goals, have the same aspirations, and also have the same self-pride in the work that they do and what they contribute to the community," said Casanova.

Community Resources for undocumented families:
GLIA created a Mutual Aid group to help the undocumented community during this time. Here is a link to the English version. Here is a link to the Spanish version. Lafayette Urban Ministry is also offering services.

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