COVID-19 and California’s Immigrant-Led and Serving Organizations:
Meeting Immediate Needs and Rising to the Challenge of Long-Term Structural Change
Between March and May 2020, GCIR conducted more than 50 interviews with immigrant-serving organizations across the state, representing a wide range of populations, geographies, issues, and strategies. These interviews sought to explore: pressing concerns related to COVID-19; strategies being deployed to address these concerns; current organizational capacity; and top policy and advocacy strategies at the local, state, and federal level.
These interviews revealed that immigrant-serving and immigrant-led organizations across the state are stretched to their limits. They are working to address urgent basic needs, test new strategies, and advocate for structural change, while managing capacity and other organizational challenges.
FOCUSING ON URGENT BASIC NEEDS
In response to the economic hardship resulting from the pandemic, many immigrant-serving and immigrant-led organizations have necessarily turned their attention to meeting urgent basic needs. Some have set up relief funds to provide cash assistance, while others are allocating significant staff time to help with applications that don’t ultimately result in support. Providers are also helping immigrants access food amid reports of price-gouging and scams related to stimulus checks.
Immigrant-serving and immigrant-led organizations report that many immigrant workers, particularly those who are undocumented and/or working in informal sectors, have no safety net or recourse. For example, immigrants without paid leave are going to work even when they are sick out of fear of losing their jobs and not being able to put food on the table for their families. Those eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) are concerned that tapping that benefit might trigger public charge rules barring them from lawful permanent residency. These and other employment-related issues have increased requests for information from the community.
Immigrant groups have also been fielding concerns related to housing. Moratoriums on rent are helpful in the short term, but they compound financial hardship for those with no future source of income. And immigrants without a formal lease and/or without immigration status are at higher risk for eviction.
COVID-19 further compounds mental health issues for immigrants and nonprofit staff alike. In addition to concerns about physical health and economic wellbeing, domestic violence and anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise. Frontline organizations are overwhelmed with calls and requests for support, as their own staff struggle to manage expanded family responsibilities and increased workloads in the context of isolation and low morale.
Read the full summary of findings by downloading the attachment below.
 See Appendix A: List of Interviewees and Appendix B: Interview Questions