By Alexandria Williams
I entered a small sparsely decorated apartment with a broken couch and a small shrine on the mantle, to meet with a woman we’re calling Maria* to protect her identity. Maria is a Grand Rapids Community College student in her early 20’s. She lives in West Michigan and knows the immigration system inside and out. Her parents are immigrants each from a different Latin American country, only her mother still lives in the United States – her father was deported recently. She lives with her boyfriend, a man who is also struggling to gain citizenship in the U.S. and has worked with immigration focused charities, and advocacy groups. Maria is currently working toward a degree in social work.
The pandemic has shifted her life and the lives of everyone involved in the immigration process. She finds herself especially worried about children who at the beginning of the pandemic were still in the process of trying to move beyond refugee status, that may have been delayed or put on hold all together. The processing of immigration has been slowed down tremendously, she says.
“The offices are closed, they are not able to go to their interviews,” she said. “They are not able to get their fingerprints done.”
Her family has been affected as well.
“We have family back in El Salvador. We have two people that got sick,”she said.
One was the breadwinner of the house, “his wife was left with all three of their kids, unable to provide,” she said.
They were worried he was going to die and their children would lack food or not be able to pursue an education, so they have had to step in to support their family financially while also making ends meet at home when things are uncertain here as well.
“It’s always a blessing to be able to help but it does create a certain level of stress,” she said.
Things have started to turn up for them though, her family in El Salvador has started to recover.
There are non-profits and the Hispanic-run programs that have been working to network and find resources for those who need to be tested safely, while protecting immigrants. If you test positive, however, that could mean a trip to the hospital and potential deportation.
What Maria really wants people to know is that they need to advocate for immigrants who are being hit the hardest. As is the case for many natural disasters, including the California fires, immigrants- farms workers- are having to work through it, with ash in the air. The government should consider this, she says, immigrants are essential workers, as they are the base workers for the food supply chain in the United States.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services was contacted for this story, they directed The Collegiate to ICE, which then redirected the reporter back to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.