Activist Dolores Huerta wants COVID help for undocumented immigrants in NJ
Dolores Huerta, a legendary leader in labor for migrant farm workers, joined activists in New Jersey on Tuesday to pressure Governor Phil Murphy and state lawmakers to fund immigrants who have so far been excluded from coronavirus aid.
In a video posted to social media by immigrant rights group Make the Road New Jersey, Huerta called theThe Democratic governor, who is seeking re-election this year, to deliver what she called a ‘meaningful recovery for all’ – and highlighted a $ 125 million fund put in place by California to help undocumented immigrants ineligible for other forms of pandemic assistance.
“They’re farm workers, horticultural workers; they’re putting food on the table for everyone in New Jersey,” Huerta said in the one-minute video. “I want you to also understand how important these workers are to the New Jersey economy. Jersey, not only for the food they provide, but also for everything they consume and everything they contribute. in taxes and the economy. ”
She ended her video with a message in Spanish, “Sí, se puede” – “Yes, we can” – a slogan she made famous during a historic workers’ struggle of the 1960s that led to the creation of the United Farm Workers of America.
In a statement, Alyana Alfaro, spokeswoman for Murphy, said the governor understands communities of color have had to bear an “inordinate burden during the pandemic.” She noted various programs Murphy has launched to help undocumented immigrants in the state, including making driver’s licenses available and signing a law allowing immigrants without legal status to apply for financial assistance from the state. State for the university.
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Alfaro said that to help immigrants deal with issues related to the pandemic, the administration launched a housing assistance program in July, without requiring documentation of legal status, and worked with non-profit partners. lucrative to tackle food insecurity in immigrant communities, again without verifying the status of documents.
“The administration is exploring ways to further assist members of our immigrant community during this difficult time,” she added.
A bill introduced last year in the state legislature would have set aside $ 35 million for one-time payments to certain undocumented immigrants who file income taxes. But despite the support of some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, the legislation has not moved forward.
Kevin McArdle, a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said the Assembly Budget Committee will “thoroughly and deliberately” review all budget proposals.
Sussex County MP Harold Wirths, who is the budget manager for Republicans in the Assembly, said he had attended several budget hearings and had personally not heard about payments for those without – papers appear as a budget item.
“I haven’t heard anyone tell me about it, and I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I’m listening pretty carefully,” he said.
Wirths has said he will oppose any measure that uses public funds to pay undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant activists have lobbied the administration for pandemic aid for undocumented workers since the outbreak has forced businesses to close and widespread job losses., especially among low-income service workers. In recent weeks, some undocumented immigrants have joined hunger strikes inNew Jersey to put pressure on lawmakers.
Activists said they were told in a meeting with officials from the governor’s office that Murphy plans to set aside $ 40 million in federal funds for one-time stimulus payments to undocumented immigrants to the state, of whom there are many. of about 475,000.
Some advocates said the sum was not sufficient. Immigrant activists have pushed the state to provide $ 2,000 in direct stimulus payments and $ 600 in unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants affected by the pandemic.
“Thirteen months after the start of an incredibly deadly pandemic, hearing $ 40 million for over 400,000 people is quite insulting,” said Katie Sastre, campaign strategist for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice. it comes down to $ 96 per person per year. ”
Sastre said New Jersey lags behind other states that months ago provided federal funds for undocumented immigrants. New York state lawmakers this month approved $ 2.1 billion in direct cash payments for workers ineligible for previous state or federal aid, including undocumented immigrants .
Sastre said Murphy and the legislature, also Democrat-controlled, must work harder to find additional funds for the undocumented community hit hard by the pandemic.
Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for unemployment benefits because they do not have a valid work permit.
And the $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congressional Democrats and enacted by President Joe Biden last month does not provide stimulus funds to non-residents, temporary workers, or those who are found illegally in the country.
But it extends the one-time payments of $ 1,400 to mixed-status families, who have a spouse or child who are legal residents or citizens.
Sara Cullinane, director of Make the Road New Jersey, said Huerta was invited to a Zoom call Monday where she met several immigrants in New Jersey, some participating in the hunger strike. She said about 30 immigrants are currently taking part in the hunger strike.
Cullinane said Huerta gave advice to the hunger strikers during the call: how to continue in a difficult campaign.
Margarita Rodriguez de Passaic, one of those fasting, said she participated in the Zoom call and was inspired by Huerta’s words.
“She’s a woman who inspired us to keep moving forward in our fight and our campaign,” Rodriguez said. “She has been a listened-to leader and fighter, and we hope to hear good news from the governor in the future.”
Monsy Alvarado is an immigration reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to the latest news on one of the hottest issues in our state and country, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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