Election Day is coming. In a year marked by cascading disruptions of “normal life” and the health and well-being of millions, we are now just days away from an event that will undoubtedly bring more unforeseeable change.
At UIDN, we are pushing ahead with efforts to help our immigrant neighbors. No matter who wins the coming elections, our friends will still be struggling with loss of jobs and income, unpayable rent and utilities bills, excessive vulnerability to COVID, disrupted schooling for their children, and the not-so-tender mercies of ICE and the federal immigration bureaucracy.
Let’s take a few moments to see, issue by issue, what we have done so far, what we are likely to confront in the months ahead, and what we will need to do as a network for immigrant defense.
UIDN began as Donald Trump was ramping up his war on immigrants. We focused on “know your rights” campaigns to counter the excesses of ICE, and created a telephone “Helpline” for our friends to let us know the kinds of support they needed.
We joined with other advocacy and organizing groups like Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson and the Worker Justice Center to reestablish the right of undocumented people to get NYS driver licenses, to keep ICE out of court houses, and to advocate for the creation of local municipal ID cards in Kingston and Woodstock.
UIDN raised funds to help Ulster County asylum seekers from Central America get back and forth to New York City for periodic check-ins and hearings with immigration officials.
We reached out to the many faith communities and civic action groups in Ulster County and expanded our collaborations with what became “affiliate” groups. Our volunteers explored other ways to help, such as family support, after-school programs for children, and outreach to local school districts and their personnel.
And then came Covid…
The impact on immigrant families was devastating, as much in Ulster County as elsewhere. Many jobs disappeared, and there were typically no unemployment insurance or emergency federal relief checks for our friends. Rents and evictions were deferred, but housing debts have simply multiplied for most families as their income dwindled or disappeared.
Some folks had to leave their jobs to care for children as in-person schooling closed. Others worked in agriculture, health care, and food processing, which while suddenly recognized as “essential,” still paid little and offered no benefits. Furthermore, along with people of color, immigrant communities experienced four to five times the rate of infection from Covid.
So here we are in mid-autumn…
Our work has expanded in scale and in kind. We have forged relationships with numerous organizations and informal groups that help us see more clearly what needs to be done and how to do it. Together with them, we are building an Ulster County community of care and respect that is working to handle whatever election day and its aftermath may throw our way.