Triangle organizations help undocumented immigrants who don't qualify for stimulus checks

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Triangle organizations are stepping in to help undocumented immigrants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic who won't get stimulus checks.

El Centro Hispano in Durham has raised more than $22,000 for its COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund.

Eliazar Posada, director for community engagement and advocacy, said they've gotten applications from about 250 people who need assistance, most of them undocumented.

"A lot of them work in hospitality. A lot of them work in the restaurant business," Posada said. "Those were--when the shutdown started happening--those were the first folks who were let go."

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According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are about 321,000 undocumented immigrants in North Carolina.

A 2017 study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows undocumented immigrants in North Carolina contribute more than $277 million in state and local taxes annually.

"A vast majority of our community members are paying taxes right," Posada said. "They're filing taxes with the ITIN number. They are still doing everything they can to contribute to the economy of the United States and the economy of North Carolina. They're doing jobs that people don't want to do in many cases. Many of them are working multiple jobs to maintain their families."

"Are we really saying that folks who have worked and contributed to the economy of the state don't have or don't deserve to be helped out in this time of need?," Posada said.

Edgar Vergara Millan is with La Semilla, a grassroots-faith organization in the Triangle. He said they've distributed food to almost 200 families during the crisis, focusing on the undocumented community.

"This is a community that contributes to the economy, contributes to society and is left vulnerable in a situation like this, because they cannot apply for unemployment benefits," Vergara Millan said. "They cannot apply for stimulus checks or monies. That heightens their vulnerability."

Vergara Millan said his organization provides baskets and hot meals to families.

"The way that we have been doing that is providing basic, what we call canasta basica, which is a basic food basket that has staple food items for Hispanic/Latino families. We also have an opportunity to provide hot food, hot plates of food, through a local restaurant," Vergara Millan said.

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California is giving $500 to undocumented immigrants who don't qualify for the stimulus funds. Posada said they're advocating for similar help from North Carolina lawmakers but aren't holding their breath.

A spokesperson for State Senator Phil Berger's office said in an email that providing checks to undocumented immigrants is not under consideration.

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis' office said he's strongly opposed to providing stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants at the federal level.
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