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Rio Arriba County commissioners James Martinez and Leo Jaramillo signed a letter along with 43 other elected officials from around the state sent a letter to New Mexico’s federal congressional delegation, urging them to support legislation that would include immigrant workers and families in future COVID-19 relief packages.

Thirty percent of Hispanic adults in New Mexico did not receive CARES Act stimulus payments, according to a new survey from Latino Decisions, released June 30.

Commissioned by immigrant and child advocates, the study reveals the economic hardship Hispanic families around the state have been facing since the outbreak of COVID-19–a reality in part caused by the exclusion of mixed-status immigrant families from CARES Act payments.

Forty percent of Hispanic families did not receive any CARES Act payments for their children.

Twenty percent of Hispanic families have had a household member lose a job since COVID-19 reached the state, while almost 50 percent of Hispanic adults have had their pay or their hours cut.

Thirty six percent of those who were laid off or who experienced cuts in hours were ineligible for unemployment benefits.

And half of Hispanic families have $1,000 or less to use in case of emergency during this time.

“In addition to many families experiencing job loss, losing their health coverage, and not being able to access unemployment benefits, most families have no safety net to lean on right now,” said Gabriel Sanchez, a professor of political science at the University of New Mexico and the lead researcher of the survey.

The study also demonstrates that many Hispanic families serve in essential roles in the state’s economy.

About half have continued to work outside the home. 31 percent of those still working serve in the healthcare industry; 20 percent are first responders; 17 percent work at restaurants and grocery stores; 11 percent work in food and agriculture production; 14 percent work in retail in stores that have remained open; 10 percent serve in the government sector; 5 percent are educators; and 5 percent serve in the transit industry.

The researchers conducted the survey between June 4 and 12 with 480 parents who had at least one minor child at home. They weighted the data to match the demographic distribution of Hispanic parents in New Mexico, using information from the U.S. Census.

The researchers decided to use the identifying term “Hispanic” instead of “Latino” or other identifiers, because the majority of people who filled out the survey chose the term, Sanchez wrote in a July 3 email.

The day the study was released, 45 elected officials from around the state sent a letter to New Mexico’s federal congressional delegation, urging them to support legislation that would include immigrant workers and families in future COVID-19 relief packages.

In a state with one of the highest percentages of foreign born residents in the nation–one in 10 New Mexicans is an immigrant–the current exclusion “presents undue challenges for families who are long-time members of our communities,” the letter states. “It also harms the ability of cities and counties to jump-start recovery efforts as we begin to reopen our economy.”

The exclusion of mixed status families from the federal stimulus checks has resulted in a $55 million economic loss to the state and the local economies, according to a recent report by New Mexico Voices for Children cited in the letter.

Each year, immigrants in New Mexico contribute more than $996 million in federal, state and local taxes, the letter states. 

But if an immigrant lacks work authorization and a social security number, they are left out of unemployment benefits and federal COVID-19 relief.

Because they cannot receive aid, many immigrants are forced to choose between continuing to report to jobs that put their health and their families’ health at risk, without any access to health insurance, or staying home without any financial assistance.

“When you have a whole community, in this case a whole segment of a community that is facing this conundrum, then it behooves local elected officials to stand up and say this is a risk not just for immigrant families but for everyone,” said Elsa Lopez, a community organizer with Somos un Pueblo Unido.

Among the 45 signatures on the letter were those of Rio Arriba County Commissioners Leo Jaramillo and James Martinez, as well as Española School Board Vice President Ruben Archuleta.

That New Mexico’s immigrant population is left out of federal benefits, though they pay taxes and contribute to the state economy, is “very alarming,” Jaramillo said in a June 30 press release.

“This is especially problematic for residents of poor rural communities where not enough programs or services are available to help cope with the economic hardships brought forth by the pandemic,” he said. “Something needs to be done to help our immigrant community.”

Lopez said that everyone–even those who do not believe undocumented immigrants should be included in pandemic relief–should care about the fact not all County residents are receiving relief, as the exclusion impacts the entire community’s ability to recover from the economic tolls of the virus.

“Community leaders and residents in Rio Arriba should be concerned that mixed-status immigrant families are excluded, because that literally means less dollars circulating in our local economy during a time where every dollar counts to lift up our economies together,” she said.

“When we leave one family out of economic prosperity, we are digging a hole for the entire community,” Lopez said.

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