INDIANAPOLIS – Three Indiana women who moved to the United States as children have created a fund to help immigrant families who don't qualify for government aid and have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
The women joined other volunteers, many of whom are also recipients under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, to raise awareness of working-class families – including people living in the country illegally.
The Undocumented Hoosier Support Fund will help about 800 families pay for utilities, medical expenses or a whole month's worth of food, the Indianapolis Star reported.
“We're called essential workers but when we don't have access to sick pay or protection to stay safe at work without exposing our families, that tells us we're disposable,” said Dara Marquez, one of the three women who started the fund group.
Marquez and her two friends, Wendy Catalán Ruana and Mari Luna, have been advocates for their families and themselves from a young age.
They were brought to the U.S. from Mexico as infants, and Indiana has been their home since. DACA recipients are able to work legally in the U.S., and they pay taxes. But undocumented individuals living in the U.S. do not qualify for any state or federal aid, including the stimulus package that was approved during the pandemic.
The stimulus package excluded millions of tax-paying immigrants, including U.S. citizens married to immigrants living in the country without legal permission, which also excluded their U.S. citizen children.
“We're the children of immigrants and no one else can tell the stories of our families as we can,” Marquez said. “Without our voice being the loudest, we wouldn't be able to make a difference.”
The group of volunteers came from organizations like the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance; immigrant-led movement and activist group Cosecha Indiana; and two student-led groups, Proyecto Siembra and Dreamers Alliance: United as One.
In about three weeks, the group raised more than $27,000 and has also received an additional $35,000 from the Central Indiana Community Foundation.
At the Immigrant Welcome Center, volunteers have helped nearly 10,000 immigrants find assistance. Dana Harrison, the center's interim executive director said the need will keep growing, which is why the availability of funds like the Undocumented Hoosier Support Fund is very important at this time.