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The Forgotten Frontline Workers

"School Social Workers Respond to Needs of Undocumented Immigrants"

by Martha Rodriguez, LCSW, Service Manager, Recovery, Broward County Public Schools

We are all humans, right? Then the treatment we give the undocumented must reflect our values as a country. It is no mystery undocumented workers are left out of any relief efforts during the Covid-19 health crisis. Social Workers will face many challenges supporting this vulnerable population. Below is a list consisting of several challenges undocumented communities may encounter as well as 5 resources and actions, we can take to help this vulnerable group during our current health crisis.

1 Community Led Relief Funds

One of the unique challenges the Front-Line workers will face during the pandemic is that without legal status and despite paying taxes and often working in critical sectors they will not be eligible for emergency assistance, and/or relief funds. Yet, many nonprofit organizations, foundations, and, community led relief funds are raising money to provide emergency assistance to such residents in an effort to support these forgotten frontline workers. Nakasec, The National Partnership for New Americans, Grant Makers Concerned with Immigrant and Refugees, and the Funders Together to End Homelessness are some of the groups who have organized to advocate and provide relief funds to vulnerable communities during this time.

2 Eviction Support and Resources

What can Social Workers do to help families whom may be evicted during this time? Social workers should advise their families of the executive orders issued by their perspective state governors suspending home foreclosures and evictions. However, these orders and timelines can and will continue to change, I therefore encourage Social Workers to become informed daily as to any updates. For evictions, the orders may only specify tenants may not be removed for nonpayment, indicating evictions for other reasons will still be in bounds. The National Low-Income Housing Coalition is doing a fantastic job at offering resources and support to families who are facing difficulties during COVID-19 as well as information on memorandum’s based on where you live.

Several protections are in place to prevent evictions across the nation. However, these policies do not forgive the rent you may owe, that is why Social Workers are fighting for further relief.

We recently have heard a lot of information regarding COVID-19 and Evictions: Your Landlord Should Not Try to Evict You. But what does this really mean?

Social Workers should know that a landlord cannot force you to leave your home without a court order. If an eviction is filed against you, you must respond to it. Have a discussion with the client you are serving and provide them with some helpful sources such as their local Legal Aid & Defender Association.

3 Legal Representation Assistance

Where can Social Workers find a list of resources including representation to help families?

I urge Social Workers to go visit here you will find information regarding Court Access & Virtual Operations, Pro Bono, and Self Help . The American Bar Association is also offering virtual clinics that provide free legal answers, each state has their own page were participants can go to and post their questions. Social Workers should explore the site to get more information on specifics details for participants to take advantage from these clinics.

Public Charge Rule

Many families who are in the process of getting a green card are fearful to get medical treatment during this time, concerned with the "public charge" rule what can you tell us about this?

The USCIS issued the following alert Social Workers should stay updated on this information as it can change. The USCIS has encouraged for individuals feeling ill to seek treatment and this treatment will not affect individuals negatively as it refers to the Public Charge Analysis. For more information I urge Social Workers to look at USCIS, Green Card Processes and Procedures.

4 Medical Assistance

What about fears of deportation when seeking medical attention?

The reality is that we will encounter families who fear deportation and will risk their lives, and health due to this valid fear. Data has demonstrated people in communities of color are being infected and dying at far higher rates than white individuals. These concerns should be acknowledged and after looking into each case assessment we should reach out to agencies, and organizations that may be able to help. One place to find information for free or lost cost health care is The National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics. On Social Workers can find information on local Testing Sites, while Feeding America provides the latest information on local Food Pantries.

5 Mental Health Resources/Organizations Supporting the Most Vulnerable

What are some Organizations, Agencies, or Non- Profits who are knowledgeable in supporting the specific mental health needs of this community?

The Informed Immigrant, is providing mental health information and resources. SAMHSA has fantastic information on supports for refugees and other vulnerable groups in grave need of resources. Social Workers can access Nami’s Covid- 19 Resource and Information guide packed with extensive resources and information to support family’s needs during the pandemic.

As I mentioned earlier, it is no mystery undocumented workers are left out of any relief efforts during the Covid-19 health crisis. Social Workers are facing many challenges supporting this vulnerable population. In spite of this they are rising up to ensure this unrepresented community has the resources they need to get through this time. The challenges experienced by undocumented workers, and their families will unfortunately continue. It is therefore imperative that organizations and community lead reliefs not only continue but expand nationwide to support the diverse and complex needs of these families.

About the Author:

Martha Rodriguez is a licensed clinical social worker. Mrs. Rodriguez received her MSW degree from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University in New York City.  She provides psychotherapy for individuals, couples, families, and groups. Currently Mrs. Rodriguez works as the Recovery Service Manager at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Her role is to help coordinate and manage the recovery services delivered to Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School and its feeder schools. Before starting at Broward County, Mrs. Rodriguez had an extensive background serving various populations in both the private and public sectors, which included clinical and educational settings. Mrs. Rodriguez went on to continue her work in the public-school system as a Supervisor for a Child Study team, School Social Worker, and Field Instructor for Rutgers, Kean, and Seton Hall Universities.

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