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What Grand Rapids could do to support undocumented immigrants right now!

April 9, 2020

When the US Government passed the Stimulus Bill a few weeks ago, a piece of legislation that was primarily a corporate bailout bill, there is one group of people who will not be receiving any relief money, even though they are some of the most vulnerable in the country.

I’m talking about undocumented immigrants. In fact, even if undocumented immigrants have had children born in the US since they have been here, their children are also not eligible for any of the COVID-19 relief money.

For all the talk about “essential workers,” one would think that that includes people who pick our food, who wash dishes in restaurants, who manicure our lawns, who change the linen in hotels or work in construction. Again, I am talking about undocumented workers, workers who are absolutely essential to the US, but who do not qualify for any financial support from the federal government.

However, within the past week, two major cities in the US, have announced that they will step up to support the essential undocumented workers and their families, even if the federal government won’t. On Friday, April 3rd, the Mayor of Minneapolis announced that the city would create a $5 million relief fund, regardless of one’s immigration or documentation status. 

Then on Tuesday, April 7, the Mayor of Chicago, “signed an executive order to ensure that refugee and immigrant communities have equal access to benefits and services provided by the city, including COVID-19 disaster relief.”

Both of these examples are leading demonstrating to the country that even if the federal or state governments do not want to provide support to some of the most vulnerable communities, that cities can chose to act and support the undocumented community.

The question for those of us who live in West Michigan is, will Grand Rapids step up and do the same. I known that several people in the community have sent messages to the Grand Rapids City Commissioners, the Mayor and the City Manager, asking whether or not the City would step up and follow the examples of Minneapolis and Chicago.

I also sent a message to the six city commissioners and the Mayor last Saturday, April 4. As of this writing, I have only received 3 responses. Someone from Mayor Bliss’s office wrote a word of thanks and will make sure that the Mayor is aware of my feedback.

First Ward Commissioner Kurt Reppart responded by saying:

I have been looking into how Minneapolis structured their fund and if it doesn’t come up this afternoon in our update on the City’s response and plans as we navigate Covid-19 I will be sure to follow up with the City Manager to ensure that whatever supportive solutions we propose are accessible to our undocumented neighbors.

Lastly, newly elected Second Ward Commissioner Milina Ysasi responded yesterday, specifically about whether or not it was on the City Agenda at Tuesday’s Commission meeting. She responded by saying:

We did discuss briefly when we talked about our budget and overall funding and how not to duplicate efforts and ensure those who do not have access are able to recover from this global pandemic. I anticipate ongoing conversations at our standing meeting next week which includes public comment.

As with most issues, governments are most likely to take action because of pressure from the community. It would be great if people could contact the Mayor, the Commissioners and the City Manager before Tuesday, to let them know that undocumented families need the support of the city right now.

Please send them a message and share this Action Alert with others:

Mayor Bliss 
John O’Connor
Kurt Reppart
Joe Jones
Milinda Ysasi
Senita Lenear
Nathaniel Moody

Mark Washington

If you get a response, please send it to me and/or post it on social media. Please take a few minutes to write Grand Rapids City officials in support of the undocumented community and as a show of solidarity.


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