WASHINGTON - As the coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep across the country, immigrant communities are being hit especially hard.
From restaurant workers, to cooks, cleaners, construction crews, and hotel staff thousands of undocumented workers in the D.C. region make up the fabric of the economy -- yet at a time of crisis, many feel neglected.
"We are contributing members of this society as workers, as individuals in this country, and we feel left out," said 22-year-old Luz Chavez.
Chavez is a recent graduate from Montgomery College and a DACA recipient. She’s been in the U.S. for 18 years. Both her parents are undocumented, and have recently lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Like millions of other undocumented people, they are ineligible for unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks.
Right now Chavez says she's supporting her family financially on her own, and her fears of losing her DACA status are higher than ever.
"DACA is the only reason I’m working, and able to support my family, and the thought of that being taken away, and the thought of not getting any assistance through the stimulus package, is very nerve wrecking," said Chavez.
"There is deep insecurity and fear among the immigrant population in this area. In recent days there have been a lot of immigration raids, and now they face a different problem, they can't work, and are not eligible for public assistance. But rents still need to be paid, there's no rent freeze in D.C., and they have to pay for food, and for a lot of folks -- they don't know how to make it work," said Brandon Wu, an organizer for a Volunteer Based Immigrant Rights Group, Sanctuary DMV.
Wu says they are seeing the struggle first hand, and because of it, they've launched a local fundraising effort to see if people who can will donate their stimulus checks.
"For some folks, they don't need that $1200 and so we thought why not ask those folks to give it to folks who need it, and who aren't getting things at all," he said.
And that call to action has not gone unanswered.
"Knowing we were in a position of relative comfort, with jobs we can do from home, this was something we were able to do," said Carolyn Hamrick.
For Hamrick this was her way of giving back, knowing she and her husband will be financially OK. Another reminder that in the darkest of times, it's often the generosity of total strangers that can offer hope.
"Hopefully, we can support our neighbors and come back stronger and not lose too much along the way," she said.
In the last 10 days, Sanctuary DMV has raised over $83 thousand and have a goal of $120 thousand. They will be working with a number of grass roots organizations to distribute the funds to undocumented families in need.
Here’s the list:
Sanctuary DMV, Many Languages One Voice, La ColectiVA, Justice for Muslims Collective, Restaurant Opportunities Center DC, and the DC area chapter of UndocuBlack.
And some more good news, EVENTS DC, the districts Entertainment Authority has also allocated money for undocumented people in the District. They have allocated $5 million as part of an $18 million relief package. It’s unclear when those funds are being distributed.