Immigrants are severely affected by COVID-19. Your church may also help. | The trade
Immigrants and refugees are among the groups most affected by the novel coronavirus in the United States. In economic terms, they are among the most vulnerable. Before the pandemic, immigrants made up 31% of hotel employees, 37% of small restaurant owners and 22% of food service employees.
Today many are unemployed, have no medical care and are often not suitable for government aid programs. For example, recently arrived refugees were not entitled to economic stimulus payments or undocumented immigrants, including those who have been invited by our government and who are required to file and pay income taxes using a special individual tax identification number because they do not receive social security numbers.
In fact, even the estimated 1.2 million spouses of U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants were excluded when they filed their taxes together.
These are just numbers, but the faces behind them are real people. As President of World Relief, I've seen both their dignity and struggle. Those who belong to an ecclesial community are the lucky ones, because most have no one to turn to for help.
Other immigrants make up a disproportionate percentage of the essential workforce, which puts them in a risk group for exposure to the virus.
Every fourth doctor in the United States is an immigrant. More than one in three domestic workers – a profession that is becoming increasingly important with the spread of the virus in nursing homes and other care facilities – was born abroad. So over a third of the workers are in meat processing, crop production and in public transport.
Many came to this country alone. In refugee camps around the world, their families have been waiting to join them and do paperwork and other formalities.
Some even had their plane tickets. Now that the resettlement of refugees has been stopped and most visa processing for foreign immigrants has been temporarily suspended, they have little hope of reunification soon.
We thanked our hospital staff with hashtags like #healthcareheroes and flooded our cities with blue light. But if we really want to thank our heroes, we turn to the people who urgently need our help.
If you are a Christian; If you have a paycheck or food on your table, or have an hour, you'll be needed. Now is an urgent moment for the Church to get involved, to stand in Christ with brothers and sisters of immigrants and to be a witness to those outside of the Church. Here are some ways to support immigrants and refugees right now:
Pray. As Christians, we are both called to love our neighbors, which includes a mandate to meet physical and economic needs and to fulfill the Great Commission. Responding to our migrant neighbors in a Christ-like manner – many of whom are already fellow believers but others do not yet know Christ – is an important testimony to God's love at a time when many feel vulnerable.
Let us pray especially for those who are not yet followers of Jesus, some of whom come from completely unreached ethnic groups, that God will draw people to them in the midst of this crisis.
Volunteer to teach virtual ESL and other classes for refugees and immigrants. Several World Relief local offices across the country have customized their personal tutoring programs to enable virtual connections.
Provide financial support (such as rent payments or groceries) for immigrants through World Relief offices or by supporting the charity fund of a community that is primarily made up of immigrants, many of whom are overwhelmed by the needs in their communities.
Speak when you see efforts to divide. While immigrants are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19 in some cases, they are not uniquely responsible, but some in our society have accused or even harassed Asian immigrants and Asian Americans or immigrants in general if we did so Facing the crisis.
It is an important time for Christians of all origins to speak clearly and publicly to reject divisive rhetoric. World Relief took pride in serving Christian groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals, the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as groups as diverse as the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and The George W. Bush Institute affirms that #AllOfUS was created in God's image, deserves respect and is needed for a strong American response to this crisis.
Find your unique calling. Before the pandemic, a pastor friend in South Carolina helped several local churches travel to Greece to serve refugees in the Moria refugee camp. Now he is preparing to distribute masks of Moria refugees to local churches that are preparing to resume personal service in South Carolina. Ask how you can use your skills or networks to make a difference.
Speak for Immigrants in prisons who are particularly exposed or vulnerable to the virus. The use of alternatives to detention is right for people who are not a threat to public security. Write to your representative or the Department of Homeland Security and ask them to consider these options.
Unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the United States also need our advocacy. Some belong to parents who were so desperately waiting in Mexico for the opportunity to apply for asylum under treacherous conditions that they would send their children across the border without them. These children are now being deported alone because the government is applying the Public Health Emergency Law to ignore the provisions of the law to re-approve the protection of victims of trafficking. I signed a letter to President Trump asking him to rethink the restrictions on immigration processes, and you can do that here too.
It is now easy to think about our own families and problems and say, "I will help if I can fix my own house." Fear and insecurity pervade our communities. But while many of us see their situation improve, others only become more vulnerable. They fight for their livelihood and life.
If we don't do anything, who will?