They comprise a population often forgotten during a pandemic that has led to unprecedented job losses and economic pain. Immigrants and refugees, including many without legal status but who have lived and worked in the region most of their lives, are finding themselves left out of government relief efforts related to the coronavirus crisis.
Now, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC), a project of Alliance San Diego, is providing $500 cash allowances to hundreds of immigrants who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed so they are able to feed their families or pay the rent.
“As soon as COVID hit, we saw large-scale unemployment and some of the immigrant community was not eligible for unemployment benefits or CARES Act money,” said Andrea Guerrero, Alliance San Diego’s Executive Director. “When the music stopped and we went into quarantine, the immigrant community was the most vulnerable and the most impacted. We started mobilizing immediately by giving out $500 grants. As soon as donors began contributing, we would distribute the money, not knowing if any more would come in.”
More, much more, has come in. Alliance San Diego has raised a total of nearly $1 million to date, helping hundreds of families during the crisis.
Alliance San Diego was founded in 2007 with a goal of changing policies that marginalize working-class families, people of color, immigrants and refugees so that everyone can achieve their full potential. San Diego County is a melting pot with more than 1 million immigrants from more than 100 countries. More than a d quarter of San Diego residents were born abroad, and half of all children in the region have an immigrant parent. One third of immigrants, however, have no legal status and no pathway to get it.
San Diegans in Need
Among Alliance San Diego’s grant recipients is a young woman named Yesenia who is out of work and taking care of her younger siblings because her mother, Angelica, was stopped by immigration authorities on her way to work. The mother has been held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center since February.
“It was a Friday and she was taking us to school and on the walk when officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement grabbed her,” said a younger sibling.
Another awardee, a mom from Honduras who is seeking asylum for herself and her six immigrant children, is no longer working in the culinary industry because of the pandemic. She has been the sole provider in her family since her husband was slain and the $500 stipend is helping to put food on the table for her family.
Yet another awardee is a Sudanese immigrant who was working as a tutor at a community college when the campus closed. The single mom with three immigrant children is using her $500 grant to buy food and cover the rent.
The need is overwhelming.
More than 12,000 people have submitted applications for $500 grants to the SDIRC Immigrant Relief Fund, which is managed by Alliance San Diego, with awards made by the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium. More than 1,000 grants have been distributed so far. They hope to raise enough to provide for an additional 1,000.
“The San Diego community has been very generous and very compassionate,” Guerrero said. “They understand the plight of our immigrants who are very much a part of our society and are woven into the fabric of our community, but who don’t have a safety net.”
Guerrero continued, “We’re very grateful to The San Diego Foundation and the COVID-19 Community Response Fund for their grant, which came early and which we were able to leverage and go out to other foundations and say, ‘Hey, The San Diego Foundation has invested in this effort. Will you join them?’ That has resulted in us raising more than $900,000 to date from five other foundations and close to 400 individual donors, and that illustrates the power of philanthropy. It’s not just the dollars, but the trust and confidence it conveys to others. We view The San Diego Foundation as a partner in our work.”
The grant to Alliance San Diego is made possible by the COVID-19 Community Response Fund administered by The San Diego Foundation, which has distributed more than $24 million in grants to nonprofits on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis. Nationwide, more than 575 community foundations in all 50 states have created relief funds to support those affected by COVID-19, raising $1 billion for response and relief efforts.
“Due to COVID-19 we were desperate, not knowing how rent would be paid,” explained Ramon Sandoval, whose family received $500 in support from Alliance San Diego. “By receiving these funds my family can have enough to eat and it will prevent us from becoming homeless.”
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