Migrant Justice distributes $200,000 in relief funds to immigrant farmworkers

Calls on Governor Scott to fund immigrant families stimulus in budget

Vermont Business Magazine Human rights group Migrant Justice has disbursed nearly $200,000 in direct aid to immigrant farmworkers around Vermont. The funds – distributed through the Vermont-based organization’s “Covid Solidarity Fund” – were directed primarily to dairy workers throughout the state who have been excluded from federal stimulus payments and other government support programs. Over 400 immigrant farmworkers and family members received aid payments of $420 each.

Migrant Justice created the solidarity fund following the federal government’s issuance this summer of “Economic Impact Payments” – better known as stimulus funds – of $1,200 to most Americans. The program excluded individuals without social security numbers, as well as their spouses and children. In response, Migrant Justice raised funds from several foundations and national organizations, from Ben & Jerry’s, and from individual donors to launch a Covid Solidarity Fund to reach excluded workers and families.

Fund recipient Yadira Miranda, a mother of two who lives and works on a dairy farm in the Northeast Kingdom, said: “I’m happy to have received this support from Migrant Justice, which came from donations that people made to the immigrant community. But at the same time I’m sad because we’re called essential but are just used as tools to power the economy. Many of us have been laid off and left with no work and nowhere to live. We have been left out of the government’s support, when we have the right to receive aid just like anyone else. We ask the Governor to recognize and support the immigrant community in the state.”

As Migrant Justice announced the distribution of aid, the organization also called for the creation of a state relief fund to issue direct payments to all Vermonters excluded from federal stimulus due to immigration status. The proposed Immigrant Families Coronavirus Relief Fund has received support from nearly 50 legislators in the Working Vermonters' and Social Equity Caucuses.

“As our state seeks to respond appropriately in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis, it is important that our actions are guided by justice, equity, and fairness,” wrote members of the Working Vermonters’ Caucus. “Vermont has a historic opportunity to make a clear statement of values by implementing this fund: in a moment of crisis, let us act clearly and decisively to ensure that no one is left behind.”

The proposed relief would reach an approximate 3,500-4,000 adults and 750-1,000 children in Vermont who have been excluded from federal aid due to immigration status. Supporters are calling on Governor Phil Scott to include the fund in the remainder of the fiscal year 2021 state budget, which will begin in October.

Migrant Justice initially proposed the Immigrant Families Relief Fund in testimony to legislative committees in the spring. Those testifying in support of the fund also included Bor Yang, Director of the Human Rights Commission; Xusana Davis, the state’s Racial Equity Director, and members of agricultural organizations NOFA-VT and Rural Vermont.

Caroline Gordon, Rural Vermont's Legislative Director, echoed the call for leadership from Governor Scott: "Rural Vermont urges the administration, in its FY21 Budget proposal, to step up to the public responsibility of providing equity for the community of immigrants and their families in Vermont who have been unfairly excluded from all federal COVID relief."

Governor Scott is expected to announce his budget proposal next Tuesday.

Source: Burlington, VT, 8/14/20. Migrant Justice