By Haroldo Nunes
Open Arms Hispanic Ministry
Hello my sisters and brothers,
I would like to start this article with a quote from Jim Wallis of Sojourners:
“We believe that the ultimate test of our discipleship to Jesus Christ is how we treat the most vulnerable in society, or as Jesus refers to them in Matthew 25, ‘the least of these’ among us. Amid this COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing more than ever who is most vulnerable to contracting and dying from this new disease — and it’s a function of deeply embedded societal structures that create and perpetuate grotesque racial and economic inequity. As we’ve been saying in recent weeks, both as the data has made horrifyingly clear and as we’ve seen whose friends and relatives have disproportionately gotten sick or died of COVID-19, poverty and racism have become pre-existing conditions that increase the chances of contracting or dying from this lethal disease.”
Unhappily, our Hispanic brothers and sisters are suffering a lot more than we are in this pandemic that has changed social behavior worldwide. I want to applaud the Congress and Senate for acting to pass a number of large relief packages with broad bipartisan support. But disgracefully, the truth is that the less fortunate in our society, both before and now in the context of the pandemic, are helped very little or not at all by recent congressional actions, despite trillions of dollars of new spending. In particular, Hispanics, black Americans, incarcerated individuals, people in Immigration detention, and Native Americans are facing challenges like never before.
Sadly, non-citizen Hispanics are not receiving any help from the relief package even though they have been paying taxes for many years with an ITIN (Individual Tax ID Number). Because they lack a Social Security card, they are denied a check from the government. Also, if an American citizen is married to someone who, in process with Immigration, has not yet received his or her Social Security card, the whole family will be penalized, not receiving any assistance from the relief package. These are two of the many examples that deny help to the immigrant Hispanic community.
It is time for us, as American citizens, to contact our elected officials in government, asking for just and fair immigration reform that will give status to more than 11 million people in this country who are planting and harvesting the produce that we buy cheaply and eat every day. The other concern that advocates are having right now is an executive order from the federal administration forcing meat processors to stay open, even when many of their employees are sick. The truth is, that the majority of the employees at meat processing plants are Hispanics.
Saying this, I would like to commend the board of directors of Open Arms Hispanic Ministries for their bold decision to double the Compassion Fund of the ministry from $3,000 to $6,000 and, if there is continued need, to expand to $10,000 to help Hispanics who have lost their jobs at restaurants, factories, etc.
I would like to thank our stakeholders for your generous support of Open Arms Hispanic Ministries. The donations that are coming in are allowing us to compensate for the income lost from the cancellation of our annual fundraiser banquet due to COVID-19. Because of your generosity, we have been able to help 17 Hispanic families in our community with grocery gift cards and seven more families with help for rent and the laundromat. We have purchased 13 more gift cards to keep distributing to needy families. In addition, one of our board members is sewing masks to distribute to Hispanics who need them.
In my daily work, I’m taking prepared food, groceries and gift cards for families, helping people with doctors’ appointments (over the phone or on the computer), sometimes going to emergency rooms, helping with counseling and so on. Last week we were able to reunite a minor who had been in immigration detention with their family in Wayne County. God is good!
Thanks to God for our caring community, and to everyone who is doing something to brighten the lives of the less fortunate!
Please keep safe and be blessed!
If you are interested in working to raise awareness of immigration issues, consider joining the Ohio Conference Immigration Resource Team. The team is seeking new members, especially from the western part of the conference. Contact Coordinator of Volunteers Alysa Short at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to join the team.
To read more of the column by Jim Wallis quoted at the beginning of this article, see https://sojo.net/articles/unequal-suffering-heres-how-congress-should-help.