Facing the COVID-19 pandemic in Virginia without government relief

April 17, 2020 12:02 am

Virginia’s state flag flies in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

By Jennifer Romero

As a DACA recipient and daughter of undocumented parents, surviving the COVID-19 pandemic has become a struggle. My father’s boss has cut several hours off his job, and my mother can’t work for the next few weeks due to her health condition.

My brother and I will receive stimulus checks from the federal government because we have a social security number thanks to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. However, my parents won’t receive a penny, even though they have paid their taxes on time every year.

Like my family, hundreds of thousands of immigrant families’ sources of income have been sidelined by the COVID-19 crisis. Others are essential workers who lack health insurance. Many immigrant workers have been left entirely out of the federal relief package.

My mother is a professional caretaker, caring for senior citizens since we came to the United States nearly two decades ago. Unfortunately, she underwent an emergency surgery last week and will not be able to work anytime soon. No one in our family was able to go to the hospital to see her due to the quarantine measures. Because of the pandemic, my mother had to wait an additional two days in pain by herself before a space opened up for her to get surgery. It was very hard to leave her in the emergency room, knowing that she would go through recovery all alone.

For decades, my parents have been economically sound, but with the pandemic taking away their jobs, they face a dire reality: My parents don’t know how they will pay for the hospital bills and medications since they don’t have enough. To make matters worse, the Trump administration announced that the stimulus help that will pull so many out of dire straits won’t provide them any relief whatsoever. Because they don’t have Social Security Numbers, they as taxpayers, won’t receive the government aid they deserve. Especially now when they need it most.

But, we aren’t going to wait for the Trump administration to do the right thing. We all know how that’s gone in the past. He’s tried to kill the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He’s tried to roll back health care coverage from the Affordable Care Act. His rhetoric has incited hate crimes against the Latino community.

That’s why my brother and I are taking the situation into our own hands.

CASA, the largest member-based Latino and immigrant organization in the mid-Atlantic region, is advocating for aid and protections to all those likely to get exposed: frontline workers, the incarcerated and the under- and uninsured. They’ve sent letters to local and state governments demanding action. Better yet, the organization has started the Solidarity Fund to support folks like my parents, hard workers who deserve government aid but won’t receive a thing. Through this initiative, CASA will directly distribute cash benefits to members who need our help now more than ever.

My brother and I will use our stimulus checks for good and donate to the Solidarity Fund. Yes, my family has had to buy less food, and, fortunately, our landlord can give us options to pay the rent. However, there are many immigrant families who have lost their jobs because they work in the hardest hit sectors, do not have enough to feed their children and are experiencing homelessness due to rent not being addressed at any level of government.

When local, state and federal governments fail to support our communities and continue the pattern of exclusion via any stimulus packages, we as a community must stand strong.

We as a united community can have a tremendous impact that can keep us all afloat. But, to do it, we must stick together.

Jennifer Romero is a DACA recipient and a resident of Stafford County.

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