New York City’s Undocumented Population Faces Exposure to COVID-19 and Food Insecurity

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Coronavirus, Face Masks, Food, Food Bank, Immigrants, Immigration, Media, Queens, NY, Undocumented, Unemployment, World News

By Jessica Easthope 

People across the world are struggling in the midst of a global health crisis. They’re dealing with obvious medical concerns, plus unemployment and food insecurity.

But here in New York City, one community is suffering at an alarming rate.

Coronavirus has been ravaging the hispanic community, and those who are undocumented are uniquely disadvantaged. Father Manuel de Jesus Rodriguez has seen it first hand as pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Jamaica, Queens.

“It’s been an experience of death and loss, we’ve been hit very hard,” he explained.”It’s been a very difficult few months.”

According to the most recent data from the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, New York City is home to around 738,000 undocumented people. Over a third are considered low income.

A new Pew Research Center survey found 52 percent of low income adults say someone in their household has experienced job or wage loss.

Of New York City’s one million essential workers, half are immigrants.

“For many of our people, staying home is impossible,” Fr. Manuel told Currents News. Many workers don’t have the luxury.

“Many of them, if they don’t work, their families don’t get to eat too much. And many have family members who rely on them back in their countries of origin.”

Of his more than 3,000 parishioners, Fr. Manuel says at least 60 percent are undocumented.

“So far we’ve lost, out of our known parishioners, 12 have died,” he said. “And that we know of, 50 or 60 parishioners are infected so far.”

Fr. Manuel has also seen how drastic food insecurity has become in the growing need at the soup kitchen and food pantry his parish holds.

“Two weeks ago you came, and I told you the numbers were maybe 150. Yesterday, we had 278 people show up for the food pantry,” he explained. “That alone tells you the situation we’re living in.”

According to Fr. Manuel, only three soup kitchens in Jamaica, Queens are continuing to offer services. Before the pandemic there were more than 30.