Extreme Hardships for New Mexican Families Ineligible for Federal Economic Relief

Jun 30, 2020

Commentary: On Tuesday, Latino Decisions released data from a statewide survey of Hispanic parents, including immigrants, demonstrating the economic vulnerability of families who experienced layoffs and reduction of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The data reveals just how hard COVID-19 has impacted Hispanic families in New Mexico and confirms what many of us have been seeing across our community,” said Dr. Gabriel Sanchez, a Principal at Latino Decisions and the lead researcher on the survey. “In addition to many families experiencing job loss, losing their health coverage, and not being able to access unemployment benefits, most families have no safety net to lean on right now. The most depressing data point in this survey in my view is that half of Hispanic families only have $1,000 in emergency funds to weather this storm.”

Key data points from the survey, conducted with 480 parents between June 4-12, 2020, include:

·       20% of Hispanic families in New Mexico have had someone in their household lose their job since COVID-19.

·       48% had work hours cut, or their pay cut, but have kept their job. 

·       30% of Hispanic adults did receive CARES Act stimulus payments 

·       40% of Hispanic families did not receive any additional CARES Act payments for their children.

·       36% of respondents who were laid off or who experienced a reduction of hours were ineligible for unemployment benefits. 

·       33% (1 in 3) parents/primary caregivers have had trouble paying for their rent or mortgage.

Citing the impact of immigrant exclusion from federal relief programs on local economic recovery efforts, dozens of local elected officials in New Mexico-mayors, city councilors, county commissioners and school board members-called on the federal congressional delegation on Tuesday to support legislation that would include immigrant workers and families in future COVID-19  economic relief packages. 

In a letter provided to Senators and Representatives, 45 officials pointed out the contributions immigrants make to New Mexico’s key industries and tax base as well as the undue financial hardships of thousands of families left out of the current federal relief response. 

New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of foreign-born residents in the nation, most living in mixed status families and therefore ineligible for CARES Act stimulus payments made earlier this year.  Layoffs and significant reduction of incomes hit most New Mexicans in the last three months; undocumented workers, however, do not qualify for expanded unemployment benefits furnished by the State or the CARES Act. This lack of relief will continue to result in homelessness, food insecurity, reluctance to seek health care, increased debt and reliance on predatory loans.  

Elected officials, dealing with budget cuts to local community and economic development projects, also underscored how exclusion of immigrants in relief packages will harm economic recovery efforts. Missing stimulus dollars and unemployment benefits for large segments of their communities mean increased reliance on local social services and fewer dollars circulating in local economies. 

For link to Latinos Decisions Survey Data & Report click here:

For link to elected officials letter to Congressional Delegation:

Statements by local elected officials:

Dona Ana County Commissioner, Manuel Sanchez, added: "So many are struggling at this stressful time and we need to work towards making sure ALL members of our community are able to receive the assistance that they need during these times. We call on our leaders in Washington to include our immigrant population that contribute so much to our nation and are particularly vulnerable during this public health emergency."

"I implore the federal delegation for New Mexico to push for legislation that will ensure that our immigrant and mixed status families have the necessary funding to live and thrive,” stated Kasandra Gandara, Las Cruces Mayor Pro Tem.

"Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, have long contributed to the economic and cultural well-being of our country and our communities,” said Doña Ana County Commissioner Lynn Ellins. “But as of late these contributions have fallen prey to a brand of xenophobia not seen in generations. It is critical that federal, state and local governments take all steps necessary to integrate our immigrant population into the fabric and mainstream of America, especially as we begin to invest in an economic recovery from this pandemic.”

"We recognize the economic, cultural, and civic contributions that immigrants make and we are proud of our legacy of passing policies that reflect that," stated Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O'Malley (District 1). “Immigrant workers have always been essential workers and we recognize their crucial role  on the frontlines of this pandemic. We know we cannot truly re-build our economy by excluding such a vital part of our community. We stand with New Mexico’s congressional delegation in advocating for the most inclusive federal relief package possible and as state and local elected officials, we must do our part as well."

“Our immigrant community has been at the forefront of responding to the Covid-19 crisis,” said Mayor Alan Webber of the City of Santa Fe. “Yet as the data show, they have been systematically excluded from the benefits and protections extended to others in Santa Fe. It’s fair and just to give them the recognition and benefits they’re due, recognizing that helping them do better with the money they’re due will help all of us do better.”

“Immigrants living in the United States, regardless of status are the backbone of American society.  Their shared values of hard work, strong families, and safe communities make us all better as a society. These same folks work at jobs, they pay taxes, and because of their contributions, they should also be given the same considerations that any of us would expect during difficult times like the ones we have all found ourselves in through no fault of our own. Coronavirus and the devastation it has brought to our communities knows no race, no religion, nor status and it’s patently Un-American to allow some to suffer merely because of immigration status in the richest country in the world,” said Mayor of Aztec Victor Snover.

“Our immigrant population doesn’t get the same federal benefits, and this is very alarming. Immigrant Families contribute to New Mexico’s economy. They pay taxes and are being left behind,” said Rio Arriba County Commission Chairman Leo Jaramillo. “This is especially problematic for residents of poor rural communities where not enough programs or services are available to help cope with the economic hardships brought forth by the pandemic.  Something needs to be done to help our immigrant community.”