New York – Every afternoon Sandra Pérez and Francisco Ramírez review a list of people. Some have been infected with coronavirus, others have several children and have lost their jobs, others are elderly with disabilities. They are all immigrants, like them.
After reviewing their list, both Mexicans enter a supermarket in the East Harlem neighborhood in Manhattan and buy rice, vegetables, cereals, soups and fruit, among other things. All with donated money. Then they get into a car and drive to Queens and the Bronx, though sometimes to other neighborhoods, handing out bags of food for an average of 15 families a day.
“I think if we are well physically, emotionally, then we can help others,” said Ramírez, a 52-year-old day laborer who used to do construction work but is now finding it difficult to find employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.RELATED
Pérez and Ramírez are part of a growing number of people who are dedicated independently to helping the immigrant community that has been hard hit by the pandemic, but often lives excluded from government and organization aid because they don’t speak English or due to your immigration status.
The food they deliver is a small way to alleviate the suffering of childcare workers, domestic workers and informal workers who have become unemployed. They also help immigrants who used to work in restaurants, office cleaning services, hair salons, and other businesses that have been forced to close because they are considered nonessential by New York State authorities.
In Stamford, Connecticut, Erika Zamora has been distributing food from the restaurant she manages along with others that was forced to close.
“People here live from paycheck to paycheck. If you run out of checks, you’re in trouble, ”said the 41-year-old Mexican immigrant, who plans to start asking for donations.
In Delaware, Vladimir Rosales runs a Spanish-language radio station called La ZMX, which has been receiving calls from Guatemalan, Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, and other nationalities immigrants asking for food. Donations to the station are made by grocery stores and supermarkets in the cities of Wilmington and Seaford, and Rosales asks families to pick up the bags at the station. It also distributes them.
“It is very sad. There are people who call crying, ”he said.
The Immigration Policy Institute said that 20% of US workers in industries vulnerable to layoffs are immigrants, despite the fact that they only represent 17% of the country’s workforce.
“A lot of the people we helped yesterday were recovering from the coronavirus and had almost no food left,” said Perez, a 40-year-old single mother who works part-time for New York City. “We want to focus on helping the most vulnerable.”
Ramírez, the day laborer from that same city, has not paid the April rent for his apartment in Brooklyn and buys his food with some money saved.
The two friends find their food donors and people who send them money, as well as those who need help, through a Facebook page. References also go by word of mouth. People who are given food tell about others who need help, and their acquaintances send their phone numbers to third parties. Pérez said that he usually receives between 10 and 15 calls or text messages a day.
The couple of friends spend an average of between 100 and 150 dollars a day on food for others, but there are days when Mexican or Peruvian restaurants donate food and distribute those boxes.
Sometimes the orders are not for food. People ask them which funeral homes they should use for the burial of deceased relatives or the names of groups that can help cover the costs of a funeral or the repatriation of ashes to Mexico.
The death toll from the coronavirus is disproportionately high among African Americans and Hispanics in New York. African Americans have suffered almost double the death rate of whites during the pandemic, according to municipal data. The death rate among Hispanics is only slightly better than that of African Americans.
Most immigrants with permanent residence can benefit from unemployment payment and emergency aid approved by the US Congress. Some with temporary work permits, such as those seeking asylum, can also apply for both forms of financial support.
But immigrants who are without legal permission in the country cannot access any federal aid, even if they pay taxes.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced a partnership with the Open Society Foundation to offer emergency aid to immigrant families, regardless of immigration status.
In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced last week that his state will offer a payment to coronavirus-stricken immigrants living in the country illegally.
Raquel Barrera, a Mexican single mother who is ill in the Bronx, received food from Pérez and Ramírez a few days ago.
The immigrant, who is recovering from strong coughs, fever and body aches, lives with her mother, a daughter, a sister, two nieces and a grandson in a two-room apartment.
“It was a blessing for us because I was able to feed the children several days,” said Barrera.
The woman has run out of money because she can no longer work cleaning horse stables on a ranch in Chester, just outside New York City.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center conducted in March, nearly half of Hispanics interviewed (49%) said that someone in their home had had a cut in wages or had lost their job as a result of the pandemic of coronavirus, above 29% of the white respondents and 36% of the black ones.
In New York, Myrna Lazcano lost her job cleaning houses and offices with her husband after the arrival of the pandemic. Still, the 43-year-old Mexican immigrant buys food with money donated by churches, activists and acquaintances and delivers it on foot in East Harlem.
“When we help the community like this I feel like we are lifting the weight of the crisis,” he said. “People smile when they see the bags with food. I call them baskets of hope. “