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Washington state's undocumented residents scramble to find funds

U.S. citizens are reeling from the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are waiting on federal checks to help them make it through the next month. But those checks won’t come for undocumented immigrants.

There is an estimated 250,000 people without legal status in Washington state. Those immigrants will not be able to access a lot of traditional state and federal resources.

They can’t file for unemployment and they also can’t get Medicaid coverage in case they get sick with COVID-19. So organizers in the state are getting creative and crowdsourcing their own funds.

Alejandra Perez is with the Washington Dream Coalition. She knew this would be a problem as she saw the pandemic spreading and jobs fading.

"When I had the idea of creating this, it was because my dad and my brother who are also undocumented just like myself," Perez said. "I immediately thought about us; what does this mean for us? We all are in a crisis and undocumented folks are at risk because there is nothing protecting us."

Perez wants to make sure other immigrants can access some kind of safety net. So far, they’ve collected over $130,000 in donations. But it may not be enough.

"We may have way more need than money, realistically," she said.

The goal would be to give each family or person anywhere from $500-1,000 to help them with rent, childcare, or bills.

Perez says she’s working with other groups like the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network to find more funding resources. That way they can use these donations they have for people with no other options, like those who work in the restaurant industry or house cleaners who have had their hours cut back or lost their jobs completely.