New Mexico Dream Team created a COVID-19 fundraiser for undocumented families in New Mexico. Since April 4, 2020, it has reached over half of their $50,000 goal.
New Mexico Dream Team is an immigrant youth-led organization in New Mexico that fights for immigrant rights.
“It’s almost horrific to see that under this pandemic they’re not being included in the conversations of how to provide relief to our people here in the United States… definitely inhumane,” Communications Director Flaviano Graciano said.
This fundraiser stemmed from the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the government stimulus package.
The organization is currently working on putting together a board of members that will equally distribute the fundraiser money, according to Graciano. The group is also still processing the best way to release applications for this money.
“We’re ensuring that this money is coming from the people and going back directly to the people by having community leaders be the ones that assess how we can distribute this money in an equitable way,” Graciano said.
Initially, the organization set out with the goal of providing $1,000 per person. However, with the increase in the need for assistance, that number will most likely be lowered so the money can reach a broader range of people.
“We’re really focusing on ensuring that our communities have what they need in order to survive and get through this pandemic,” Graciano said.
Graciano also said there has been an influx in the number of people reaching out through their social media in an effort to help in any way they can.
“This community is not being considered and (the government) is acting like they don’t exist in a time where we need to ensure that everybody in our country is not only following the procedure but have the resources to be able to help with bringing down the curve and getting out of this pandemic,” Graciano said.
Graciano said that lack of healthcare creates a circumstance where both testing and treatments for COVID-19 would be too expensive for individuals and families to afford.
“(Undocumented immigrants) are having to face that reality of testing charges, medical bills, in cases where the government is not really stepping up to protect them,” Graciano said.
Graciano said the main issues here are “first, the accessibility to healthcare during a worldwide health crisis and second, the way that immigrant communities are being left to fend for themselves at a time when everyone is looking to the federal and state government for guidance in how to move forward.”
Graciano said that these communities do pay taxes and have an ITIN number, and are being unfairly excluded from the stimulus package.
According to Graciano, mistrust of the government stems from these issues, which is apparent in the under-recorded number of immigrants in the United States Census.
The group originally started as a student group at the University of New Mexico in 2013, shortly after Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) began.
DACA is an ongoing issue that the Supreme Court is still in the process of making a decision about. According to Graciano, the team’s national organization is continually pushing the DACA movement forward.
“They go into every week with the expectation that the Supreme Court will unveil that decision. It’s a really hard time for students, especially undocumented immigrant students,” Graciano said.
This exclusion from the stimulus package will have a major impact on immigrants without healthcare that are still working essential jobs or are unemployed, according to Victor Romero-Hernandez, a student leader in the LGBTQ department.
“Undocumented immigrants do contribute to the economy,” Romero-Hernandez said. “Regardless of immigration status, people should always come first.”
Romero-Hernandez said that he is the only one still working in his family, which puts the pressure to pay for everything on his shoulders, as many other families are also facing.
“A lot of families are mixed-status families so some people are losing their jobs and the ones who aren’t losing their jobs have to provide for the entire family,” Romero-Hernandez said.
Romero-Hernandez said that this also makes education payments difficult since most of that comes out of their own pocket with little financial aid or support.
New Mexico Dream Team has various scholarships that undocumented students can apply for.
“We know a lot of students are uncertain about the future,” Graciano said. “Right now, people are looking for ways to ensure that they are safe and stable.”
New Mexico Dream Team is also striving to work on relational organizing, which includes reaching out to family and friends to guarantee that they know that the group is moving forward through the pandemic.
“The work is staying the same,” Graciano said. “The shift is how we’re carrying it out.”
Megan Gleason is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716