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Being Undocumented In The Time of Corona

By BESE Staff on April 7, 2020
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Mia* and her sister had planned to attend an endometriosis rally in Texas to see if they could get help for their undocumented mother, whose legal status makes it difficult for her to afford her medications. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the rally was canceled, Mia and her family were left with unanswered questions. 

The viral pandemic has left many families, like Mia’s, with grave uncertainty for the future. Undocumented workers and their loved ones are incredibly vulnerable as businesses continue to shut down, employees are laid off, and tests are only available to the extremely ill, and extremely rich. This outbreak has heightened the already visible inequity that exists within our country, and it seems like things won’t be evening themselves out anytime soon. 

We spoke with Mia about her family’s history in the United States and how her family is dealing with the consequences of the coronavirus. 

This is her story. 

***

Our family consists of me, my mom, and my two younger sisters. My father was deported in 2014.

Before the pandemic, my mom used to work long shifts every day, and often, we wouldn’t have time to sit down and have a conversation together or even time to eat dinner as a family.  

Right now, we are spending more family time, learning how to understand each other better and having fun. This lockdown has brought us together and unified us once again. 

My mom hates the fact that we have to remain at home because she wants to be able to work. She works at a restaurant and doesn’t make a lot of money. At the moment, she isn’t working a lot of hours, which means [she is only] working one or two eight-hour shifts a week. She’s worried that she [won’t be] able to pay the bills or for her medicine in the future, but she says, “At least we are together.”

Lack of documentation has been a problem for my mother because she has never had medical insurance. 

She is a uterine cancer survivor and is also dealing with endometriosis. My mother has always been a hard worker. To make extra money, she used to sell pastries and desserts. My sisters and I would ask her how we could help. Even though we were young, we felt the pressure. 

We would go to apartment complexes and around the trailer park where we used to live—with our mom, of course—and knock on doors to ask people if they wanted to buy a slice of chocoflan or other desserts. 

I was about seven-years-old when I remember hearing my dad talk about how they mistreated him at his job. He said the only reason why he would keep working there was to be able to pay for the bills and my mom’s cancer treatment. He would sometimes DJ at his friends’ parties to earn some money. Although he wasn’t a great DJ, we would enjoy watching him have fun, but we were too young to know why our parents were going through this. We just wanted to have fun and help. Overall, we dealt with the prices of the surgeries my mom desperately needed by working hard to earn extra money, and our community supported us along the way.

I don’t feel like there are enough resources to help my mom because she is an undocumented immigrant. Her doctor tried to help by connecting her to a private organization and gave her discounted prices on her medicine, but it was still hard for her to pay for them. My parents still pay 80 percent of the total amount of every surgery my mom has had. 

This year, we were planning to go to the endometriosis rally in our city to see if we would be able to find an organization to help my mom. Unfortunately, it was canceled due to the pandemic.

Now that I am older and am more aware of what my mom is going through, I try to find more resources and help for her. I want others to be aware that people in our community are too afraid to seek medical care because of the cost and because of the fear of being rejected. They often wait until the last minute, and because of this, many undocumented individuals deal with severe illnesses and eventually pass away from lack of proper medical care. 

Just like everyone else, we don’t know what the future holds, and we don’t know what kind of medical assistance they’re going to need in the future. 

We need to make it possible for undocumented individuals to feel like they have enough support if something were to happen. It not only affects them, but it also affects their whole family.

***

If you or someone you know is undocumented and in need of medical assistance and resources, you can visit the National Latinx Psychological Association and view their compiled list of organizations all around the United States. You can also call your representative at 1-844-442-1764 or text RELIEF to 73179 and demand all people—documented or not—get the resources they need. 

*Names have been changed to protect the individual’s privacy 

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