High Country News
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High Country News

In southwestern Colorado, immigrants face a dual crisis

A global pandemic, and no social safety net leave immigrant and mixed-status families fending for themselves.

Brenda, Luis’ wife, and Beatriz Garcia, the program manager of Compañeros make a food delivery. The organization has been redirecting their funding to assist families hit hard by job loss due to COVID-19. Ben Waddell/High Country News

In recent months — in the midst of the nation’s worst economic crisis since 1929 — the Trump administration restricted immigrants’ access to public assistance, including the coronavirus relief package. As a result, immigrants and their families are living through a global pandemic with limited access to basic necessities.

Despite the fact that undocumented immigrants and their families often pay taxes, 15.4 million people were excluded from the federal government’s first rescue package. In Colorado, this decision affected some 236,000 families, including 95,000 U.S. citizens who were denied checks because of their relationship with undocumented immigrants, whether as children, spouses or other close relatives.

As a volunteer for Compañeros: The Four Corners Immigrant Resource Center, a nonprofit in Durango, Colorado, I see the economic toll these policies take on immigrants and their families every day. The majority of these families, many of whom are Latino, are ineligible to receive any public assistance because of the government’s “public charge rule.”

Although such rules are longstanding, the most recent versions restrict the path to legal status for immigrants who have used basic public assistance programs, including the food stamp program, or SNAP, Medicaid and unemployment — crucial safety nets, especially during a pandemic. The people I’ve met, most of whom had been employed in restaurants, hotels and other areas of our community’s service sector, suddenly found themselves without jobs. And they still have no idea whether or not they’ll have work waiting for them on the other side of this crisis.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/south-immigration-in-southwestern-colorado-immigrants-face-a-duel-crisis

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