Mutual Aid, for and by Undocumented Immigrants

By Lizzie Tribone


Mutual aid and even government support struggle with the tremendous need in undocumented immigrant populations. Elizabeth Lower-Basch, director of income and work supports at the anti-poverty nonprofit Center for Law and Social Policy, used the recent example of California’s $125 million COVID-19 relief fund for undocumented workers as a cautionary tale. The first-in-the-nation relief effort, funded by taxpayer money and charitable donations, had a chaotic rollout, with the 12 nonprofits disbursing the funds overwhelmed by demand. Ultimately, the funds were only able to reach 150,000 undocumented people, out of the state’s estimated undocumented population of two million.

Mutual aid funds simply “do not have the scale to substitute for the federal government doing what it should,” Lower-Basch told me.


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