Many first generation immigrants work in restaurants, in agriculture, and in other less than stable jobs. While some of Yolo County’s most dedicated and skilled educators and medical professionals come from immigrant families, those professionals are generally second or third generation members of the community. YIIN is cognizant that in this critical time, we have the opportunity to keep first generation immigrant families, whose children will become our attorneys, medical personnel, legislative leaders, educators, from suffering food insufficiency and even loss of housing. The parents in these families are now without work or are working at their peril. Their children are without school, and many schools have provided both physical and intellectual food for these students.
YIIN has begun a project called ApoYolo, roughly translated from the Spanish as “support/help Yolo.” ApoYolo is assembling a team of culturally competent, trained bilingual volunteers to identify and work with families with undocumented members to assist them with obtaining available services from the Yolo Food Bank, Empower Yolo and local clinics. We are also raising funds, in partnership with other community groups, to help families pay rent and utilities.
Read further for more details on how COVID-19 has affected our communities and how YIIN and ApoYolo are addressing the resulting needs.
Yolo County is rare, as its residents span the humblest of agricultural workers and the most erudite of university research-focused professors. No one is immune to the threats of COVID-19, yet those at greatest risk for a personal economic catastrophe are clearly our immigrant neighbors. Although Governor Newsom has established a fund to give financial support to undocumented workers in California left out by the federal stimulus programs, that fund will not be adequate to meet the essential needs of immigrant families in the coming weeks and months. YIIN hopes to be able to provide such assistance here in Yolo County through the ApoYolo program.
In addition, because of YIIN’s longstanding work at the Madison and Davis migrant centers, we are acutely aware that farm worker families will face great risks from the pandemic as they work in the fields and in the canning businesses in the coming months. Because their work will make it difficult for them to practice social distancing and rigorous hygiene, such as frequent hand washing, farm workers will be particularly vulnerable to contracting the virus and bringing it home to their families. When they fall sick, they will not be able to rely on sick leave benefits. Their children, whose education is normally compromised by the fact that they relocate frequently, face greater challenges than most during this period of disruption.
During the coming months many families across the world are facing possible dire food shortages. Certainly many of the people that YIIN has supported financially in the past will doubtless need even more assistance. The sad truth is that the work done by the immigrants amongst us is essential to our economy yet we do not afford them the financial security they deserve.
YIIN became involved in the plight of a Mexican mother whose husband was deported just before the shelter-in-place order was announced. This mother of three was left with no way to pay rent and utilities; the library technician in whom she confided was quick to see YIIN as a potential source of emergency relief. From that experience burgeoned ApoYolo. As we refine the identification process and build economic strength starting in Davis, ApoYolo will expand throughout the county.
YIIN’s goal is to serve as many people in the Yolo immigrant community as possible, varying our programs to meet the needs of different areas. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs have exploded and funding has diminished. YIIN had to cancel its annual fundraiser dinner, which has historically been its primary source of revenue.
Our new ApoYolo program will require significant funding if we are to help families pay their rent and utilities. An additional expense will be in providing critical resource materials in Spanish and English. In order to cover these expenses we have been making special appeals to our supporters and to the larger community.
Moreover, we hope to be able to continue our programs at the Madison and Davis migrant centers. In particular, the DIAS programs for children and youth require money for staff, materials and field trips. YIIN cannot rely on usual sources of aid during this extraordinary time of need, and is more reliant than ever on community involvement and support.