The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to the livelihoods of many who have looked to the governments for aid to appease their suffering. The US government gave out stimulus checks to all Americans as a response to these cries for help, which has had a positive influence on the lives of most people who reside within the country. However, there is a rather large population who has been ignored: undocumented immigrants. Their lack of aid has been rather shocking, mainly because they are more likely to work essential jobs. Make The Road, a not-for-profit organization in New Jersey, led a coalition to ensure these excluded workers received some aid– a one time payment for “excluded workers.”
On February 19, 2022, I was one of the few lucky people to volunteer at the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund and provide support. During the clinic, we assisted excluded workers with their stimulus check applications. I facilitated the application process step by step and even provided rusty English-to-Spanish translations to the applicants since most were native Spanish-speakers with little English language proficiency.
While working at the clinic, I gained a personal understanding of these hard-working, resilient individuals. Overall, I discovered the different kinds of financial hardships, occupations, monthly incomes and even about their place of origin. It was heartbreaking to see people live in these conditions, especially since I was oblivious about their situations until they came to the clinic. It truly was eye opening.
Witnessing this firsthand made me realize that people who criticize the bill to support immigrants and its extension do not know what they are talking about. Factory workers that pack the products that go to your grocery stores, construction workers who build your roads and houses and even day workers that maintain your lawns and clean your areas are all suffering financially because of inequality. It is a tragedy that there are people who believe that it is unnecessary to provide these workers with financial support. The funding was only made possible by the constant efforts of thousands of immigrants and working class individuals that held rallies to voice their struggles and cry for help.
Make The Road, which struggled for this victory, had to win it again when the state argued for a funding expiration deadline of Jan. 1—a ridiculously short period of time that would only let a few people have a chance of applying for the benefits. In a world full of inequality, all of us have an obligation to acknowledge what we can do to provide help to others.
As Pope Francis once said, “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”