Standing Together: Support for Undocumented Immigrants

By Jessi Misslin - May 20, 2020

One in ten Californians is undocumented, and the hardships wrought by coronavirus—lost wages and unemployment, food shortages, closed borders, and increased risk of illness and death—are magnified for this already vulnerable population. The federal CARES Act excludes undocumented immigrants, who also lack health insurance and are ineligible for unemployment insurance and most government safety net programs. Yet as a state and a nation, we know we are all in this together, and the well-being of all community members, regardless of immigration status, is essential to our ability to persevere and ultimately rebound from this pandemic.

Fortunately, California takes a compassionate stance. Statewide, the philanthropic sector has collaborated with the governor’s office to establish the California Immigrant Resilience Fund,(CIRS) a $50 million fundraising initiative supported by foundations and individual donors, including PFS client foundations. Together with a $75 million state-financed fund, CIRS will provide $125 million in direct cash assistance to undocumented immigrants in need. This critical support will be distributed through community-led partner organizations working at the grassroots level to assist undocumented individuals and families.

Throughout the Bay Area countless nonprofits are working overtime and piloting new programs to support, mobilize, and empower immigrant and low-income families in this tumultuous time. Below, we spotlight three organizations in this space—all funded by PFS client foundations—that are exemplifying the agility, responsiveness, and deep devotion that is so critical in this moment.

ALAS (Ayudando Latinos A Soñar)

On the Peninsula coast, ALAS (Ayudando Latinos A Soñar) is a Latino cultural arts and social services program serving youth and families in Half Moon Bay. Deeply connected to its community, ALAS provides mental health counseling services, social justice advocacy, farmworker outreach, support for newcomer families, immigration legal support, and educational services. Shortly after California’s shelter in place order went into effect in March, ALAS partnered with fellow nonprofits Coastside Hope and Abundant Grace to establish a Coastside Crisis Fund to assist those who don’t qualify for more traditional relief. In a second innovative response to C-19, ALAS launched a mask-making program to safeguard and support local farmworkers and other essential workers by providing protective gear, which for many, has not been made available by government or employers. While ALAS provides masks for free to all who need them, their masks are also available for sale to the general public, helping to provide income for local parents who have lost hourly work.

Inland on the Peninsula, Upward Scholars works closely with immigrants and first-generation Americans in Palo Alto and Redwood City to achieve educational and economic success by providing academic, financial, and career development support. Program participants are paired with community volunteers to help strengthen language skills and connect to resources necessary for success like food, textbooks, and financial aid. This relatively young agency is gaining momentum quickly; they currently partner with all community colleges in San Mateo County and have seen many of their alumni go on to graduate from four-year universities. During the pandemic, Upward Scholars has piloted an innovative partnership with AnewVista in Redwood City to offer free meals for area students who are having difficulty accessing food. The program raises funds and with them, purchases a meal from a small local restaurant that is struggling. They then set up a drive-thru pick-up site for Upward Scholars students to safely receive a meal for themselves and members of their household in need.

In the north bay, Canal Alliance is a nonprofit champion of immigrants who are challenged by a lack of resources and an unfamiliar environment. Based in the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael in Marin County, Canal Alliance offers immigration legal services, educational support and English language instruction, career and job skills programs, and social services to help Latino immigrants and their families overcome the barriers to success. During the pandemic, Canal Alliance has been working with state and local governments, nonprofits, and other partners to offer an array of resources, from food and health services, to educational support, to critical guidance on rights and protections for tenants and workers. While sheltering in place, Canal Alliance has adapted to provide most of its services by phone while also mobilizing door-to-door outreach—thanks to a devoted volunteer corps—to deliver informational flyers on everything from safety net resources, to civil legal rights, and the importance of participating in the census.

For more information on these and other nonprofit organizations providing support and advocacy for undocumented and immigrant populations, contact Jessi Misslin.

Recommended Reading & Resources

Northern California Grantmakers – CA’s Immigrant Resilience Fund:
Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees:

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