Undocumented employees name on N.J. lawmakers to cross reduction payments forward of holidays

For the fifth time in nine months, undocumented workers and allies held a rally to urge state lawmakers to pass coronavirus relief laws for previously banned undocumented residents and their family members.

More than a dozen people gathered for the vacation-themed rally at Woodbridge Railway Station Thursday evening to ask assembly spokesman Craig Coughlin to vote on a series of bills that would provide aid to residents banned from the CARES Act Would provide checks and other benefits.

“We haven’t had a single committee hearing, not a single vote,” said Make the Road New Jersey organizer Deyanira Aldana of S2480, which would provide for a one-time payment for residents excluded from the CARES law before the law begins, “Alevio para todos ! ” chant – Spanish for “relaxation for everyone”.

Since the coronavirus pandemic changed life in Garden State, immigrant groups and residents have been calling on lawmakers for months to pass and protest relief laws – holding a camp at the statehouse in July and several other rallies across the state – but still have get no relief as the holidays are fast approaching.

While millions of households across New Jersey received $ 1,200 stimulus checks or received state unemployment benefits, none of the 500,000 undocumented residents of the state were eligible for these benefits. Undocumented workers contribute approximately $ 604 million in state and local taxes and more than $ 1 billion in federal taxes, according to Make the Road.

They called for invoices S2480, which would provide a one-time payment for those excluded from the CARES Act, and A4034, also known as the “National Bill,” which would allow tenants to create a payment plan to compensate for missed rents Repaying the eviction without fear and offering indulgence to homeowners who cannot afford their mortgage payments.

According to a September study by Make the Road New Jersey, an immigrant advocacy group that works with the Latino community, more than 722,000 residents and their family members have been excluded from the pandemic relief fund because of their citizenship status.

Between February and April, roughly one in five foreign workers lost a job, and immigrants were more likely to work in service industries, which were hit hardest by the cuts, than American-born workers, according to the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress.

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20-year-old Milena Guayasamin lost her job as an after-school teacher at the local YMCA on March 13, meaning her family lost the money she depended on for rent, bills and to cover her tuition at Middlesex Community College .

Her family came to America from Ecuador in 2016 and has lived in Perth Amboy ever since. Guayasamin was not eligible for unemployment benefit, and neither she nor her mother or sister received a stimulus check.

“I was very scared and frustrated because I really didn’t know where to go. The only thing I had was my job and it felt hopeless to lose it because I had nowhere else to go, ”she said.

During the summer, her family relied on savings and on what her father, who was also laid off, could pay from his child support. Once a week they waited in long lines at the local grocery bank and could no longer afford to go to the supermarket.

And at the beginning of the semester, Guayasamin sacrificed her cell phone tariff to pay for the Internet in her apartment. She’s still debating how to pay for the textbooks she needs for her classes.

“I was so desperate because I couldn’t just stop studying, so I canceled my phone dates and had to get another job, even if it’s dangerous,” she said. She now works as a cashier at a local supermarket, which “saves us some pain.”

And while Governor Phil Murphy said the state had “done a lot for our immigrant brothers and sisters,” he said the state was facing a huge budget gap and did not have the money to set up an immigration fund.

These funds exist in other states, all of which are suffering enormous financial losses, including emergency funds in Arizona, Florida, South Dakota, Washington, and Vermont, and many cities. The California fund distributed relief to 150,000 undocumented residents, and Colorado passed law providing a $ 5 million grant to those ineligible for housing benefit, including undocumented immigrants.

Guayasamin said she was frustrated when she heard lawmakers say they wanted to do something but they can’t.

“They let us daydream about a reality that they want to help us or something, but they have the power to do something and they don’t help us at all,” she said.

A token COVID-19 flogging is carried out by a young child as undocumented immigrants hold a rally at Woodbridge Railway Station in Woodbridge on Thursday December 3, 2020.John Jones | For NJ Advance Media

Before the rally ended, a young boy named Matthew brandished a symbolic piñata in the shape of the coronavirus.

“Together we will defeat the coronavirus, not the Latino community,” Aldana said as the protesters sang the bilingual Christmas carol Feliz Navidad with a slight change in the lyrics.

“Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Relief,” they sang, changing the last word from “happiness” to “recovery”.

“We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas from the excluded community,” they continued in English.

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her at @snietomunoz.

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