As Congress approves its latest coronavirus relief package to combat the economic fallout of 2020’s pandemic, lawmakers once again overlook the needs of undocumented immigrants. Although providing public benefits to undocumented people is a hotly debated topic, the coronavirus does not discriminate, and Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot hopes to help.
Last month, Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order allowing undocumented immigrants access to the city’s coronavirus relief programs.
Care for undocumented workers
A 2017 study from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs revealed 1.3 million workers in America’s hospitality industry are undocumented. With the federal government rapidly pushing for America to reopen the economy, lawmakers overlook providing health and safety protections and economic relief for this key demographic. Lightfoot’s executive order helps Chicago’s undocumented residents receive the help they need, independent of the federal government.
The Illinois Restaurant Association’s president Sam Toia has repeatedly said that immigrants are the “backbone” of the restaurant industry. Restarting the economy without essential protections for many of these workers risks exposing co-workers and customers alike. Chicago’s new order will help.
Undocumented immigrants now have access to $1,000 grants from Chicago’s housing department. Mayor Lightfoot plans to issue 2,000 such grants. The order also establishes a Small Business Resiliency Fund of $100 million. These funds are available to any Chicago entrepreneur, including immigrants like Rick Rodriguez. A DACA recipient from Mexico, Rick and his brother were anticipating closing their restaurant for good. Now, they have a chance to start again. Additionally, restaurant owners who secured aid from the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program are free to use that money for employees as needed — including on undocumented workers.
For students in the city, the order also establishes online learning resources through Chicago Public School so learners of all ages can secure an education.
Legal protections for Chicago’s residents
Immigrants curious about support programs provided by the city of Chicago can reference the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago website for more information. For legal concerns, individuals can find answers with a local attorney familiar with immigration law.