Immigrants deliver food, ‘hope’ to workers hit by pandemic

Every afternoon, Sandra Pérez and Francisco Ramírez go over their list of fellow New Yorkers who need help because of the coronavirus pandemic. Some are sick. Others lost jobs, but have children to feed. Others are elderly or disabled. All are immigrants, like them.
Immigrants deliver food, ‘hope’ to workers hit by pandemic
Francisco Ramírez (right) receives a hug from a donor (centre) as Sandra Perez offers help

New York

Then, the friends, both originally from Mexico, stock up on rice, beans, vegetables, cereal, soups and fruit at an East Harlem supermarket, and make deliveries by car to as many as 15 families a day.
“I feel that if we are well, physically, emotionally, then we can help others,” said Ramírez, a 52-year-old day labourer who but now finds work scarce because of the crisis.
Pérez and Ramírez are among a growing number of people who have taken it upon themselves to help an immigrant community that has been hard hit by the pandemic, but often lives in the shadows of government and not-for-profit aide systems because of barriers such as language and immigration status.
These aide networks can be informal and operate on word-of-mouth and social media fundraising campaigns.
In Stamford, Connecticut, Erika Zamora has been distributing food from the restaurant she co-owns even after it was forced to close.
“Many people here live check by check. If you miss a check you are in trouble,” said Zamora, herself a Mexican immigrant. She plans to start calling people for donations.
In Delaware, Spanish-language radio station La ZMX manager Vladimir Rosales has been receiving calls from Guatemalan, Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran and other immigrants asking for food. He responded by soliciting donations from stores in Wilmington and Seaford and having families pick up the bags of groceries from the station.
“It is very sad. People call me in tears,” he said.
The Migration Policy Institute found that 20% of the U.S. workers in vulnerable industries facing layoffs are immigrants, even though they only make up 17% of the civilian workforce.
According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in March, 49% of Hispanics surveyed say they or someone in their household has taken a pay cut or lost a job – or both – because of the COVID-19 outbreak, compared with 29% of white and 36% of black people.

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