Montclair State University’s Center for Cooperative Media held a virtual press briefing on Sept. 17 to discuss how coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted immigrants living in New Jersey.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 7 million people in the United States have lost their jobs, many of these people being people of color or immigrants. There are an estimated 425,000 undocumented immigrants in New Jersey and 23% of these people have lived here for more than 10 years.
Nedia Morsy, organizing director of Make the Road New Jersey, explained who qualifies as an undocumented immigrant.
“An undocumented person is anyone who has an expired visa, violated their visa or has no visa at all,” Morsy said.
Make the Road New Jersey is a program set in place to help immigrants and undocumented people with services they would not otherwise be entitled to, including immigration and employment legal services, English lessons, driving school, financial aid support and more.
Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute office at New York University School of Law, said the process of immigration was hindered due to offices closing in response to COVID-19.
“11.2 million people still remain ineligible for benefits and government aid,” Chishti said.
Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any state aid. As a result, many of them continued going to work even if they were sick because they could not afford to miss work and they were not eligible to receive any unemployment.
“We can’t leave people behind during an emergency pandemic,” Morsy said. “People are going to work today with a cough, a fever, real symptoms of [COVID-19] because they know that if they tell their employer they have [COVID-19] and they cannot come into work, they just forfeited two weeks of pay.”
Make the Road New Jersey launched the #Recovery4All campaign during the pandemic to bring awareness to this issue and help immigrants who do not qualify for state aid.
John Marshyti, a senior business administration major, is very passionate about this topic.
“It is very disappointing to see people who have risked their [lives] for a better life be completely blindsided by our government system,” Marshyti said.
Marshyti said his parents are immigrants, so it is sad for him to see this happening to people who just want a second chance. He also added that he is very thankful for programs like Make The Road New Jersey that are helping families by providing them with services they desperately need.
Jake Lodge, a senior economics major, said he is not surprised that immigrants have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
“With the amount of [United States] citizens that were impacted by the pandemic and lost work, the priority was getting money to businesses and getting people back to work,” Lodge said.
Lodge emphasized that people need to pay attention to this issue.
“It is definitely a major human rights issue and they deserve the relief because many of them are hardworking and do pay taxes like everyone else legally in this country,” Lodge said. “But simply because they do not have citizenship, they probably will be overlooked unless serious attention is brought to the issue.”
If you or someone you know needs help from Make The Road New Jersey #Recovery4All, text ReliefNJ to 52886.