Gina Rodriguez has built a reputation for not being one to quedarse calladita, especially when it comes to issues that affect the Latino community. So it’s no surprise that she made TIME Magazine’s top 100 Most Influential People of 2016.
The night of TIME’s gala, Rodriguez had a few words to say about immigration detention centers and the terrible treatment of those detained.
“We need to keep families together and not in detention homes,” the actress said. “The fact that it’s even called that makes you feel uncomfortable knowing that there’s no care for people as human beings.”
As for what’s going on in the presidential race, Rodriguez wants candidates to stop talking and start doing. “Conversation is great, but we need to take action,” she told Latina.
You tell ‘em Gina!
Read more about what Gina Rodriguez has to say here
Eviction is a terrifying prospect. Even more so amid a global pandemic and economic uncertainty. Imagine losing your house – a place you’ve called home with your family for months or even years. Unfortunately, it’s a reality that millions are facing as the Coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the global economy, millions are plunged into unemployment, and millions more struggle to make ends meet – including the most basic necessity of paying the rent.
Several cities and states have enacted temporary rent freezes or holds on evictions but landlords are still threatening their renters with evictions. Some of the most vulnerable communities – such as undocumented residents – are left feeling hopeless and with no where to turn since they may be afraid to seek legal help and have less access to government-funded resources. As a result, many undocumented residents are choosing to self-evict rather than risk going up against a hostile legal system.
A new report details how many undocumented migrants are choosing to self-evict instead of fighting back.
The Texas Tribune published a feature story on a hard-to-track aspect of the coronavirus pandemic: Undocumented immigrants are “self-evicting” from apartments, even while eviction moratoriums are in place, out of fear of retribution.
“On paper, an undocumented tenant has the same rights as anyone else during the eviction process,” the report says. “But housing attorneys and tenant and immigration advocates say undocumented immigrants are frequently hesitant to exercise those options. Their fear of the legal system and lack of access to government-funded financial help prompt many to self-evict, or prematurely leave the property.”
In some cases, undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for certain government assistance programs that could help them keep up with rent or remain in their homes, the report says. In other cases, some are afraid to seek assistance because they don’t want to attract attention from immigration officials, according to the report.
Because of that, some undocumented immigrants choose to leave their homes even before a formal eviction is filed, turning to family members and community organizations for emergency housing. Immigrants have also lost their jobs at higher rates during the pandemic than other groups.
The legal system is a hostile one towards undocumented residents and help perpetuate fear in the community.
As the Coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects began to be felt across the country, many renters found temporary relief in eviction moratoriums, federal pandemic relief payments, unemployment checks and rental assistance programs. Undocumented migrants, though, either don’t qualify for such aid or are afraid that merely seeking it will alert immigration authorities to their presence in a country whose president has called some immigrants “animals,” makes racist remarks and consistently tries to create barriers for migrants.
Meanwhile, courthouses are intimidating places. And the mere idea that ICE officials are sometimes present in them (and they have indeed arrested undocumented immigrants who have shown up for court hearings that a unrelated to their immigration status) has left many too fearful to even attempt a legal challenge to a potential eviction.
For some, it’s also a language barrier as not all legal systems provide bilingual services.
In the report, Adriana Godines, of Dallas Area Interfaith, says that “When they want to ask for help from a nonprofit, and the staff only speaks English, they feel intimidated and don’t want to go on.” She adds “Even if I tell them that there will be no problem and they won’t ask for your Social Security, they prefer not to [ask for help].”
And even people who go to the justice of the peace courts, where eviction cases are heard, face similar hurdles.
“A lot of JP courts won’t have bilingual speakers,” said Lizbeth Parra-Davila, a housing fellow at the University of Texas School of Law. “Throughout Texas, that has been the case where I’ll call JP courts and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we don’t have any Spanish speakers. We don’t have any Spanish interpreters.”
However, there are resources out there for undocumented residents facing evictions.
States from California to Connecticut have implemented varying degrees of aide to undocumented immigrants within their states. In Connecticut for example, the state has issued a $1 million fund aimed at supporting immigrants with rent payments. In California, the state is working to make unemployment benefits available to undocumented residents, which would go a long way in helping people pay their rent. The state has also launched a fund that provides up to $1,000 in financial assistance to undocumented residents in the state. You can learn more here.
NAKASEC’s Emergency Mutual Aid Fund will provide up to $500 in financial assistance, you can find the application here.
There are many other programs available to the community in states all across the country. Several resources are detailed further at InformedImmigrant.com.
Despite losing his battle to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census (the case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court), Trump’s attack on undocumented residents isn’t over yet. This time, the president is targeting states who have large undocumented communities by excluding them from Congressional reapportionment. In particular, Trump wants to exclude them from the numbers used to determine how many seats in Congress each state will have for the next 10 years.
It’s a blatant attempt to subvert the constitutional requirement that the census conduct “an actual enumeration” of the “whole number of free persons” in the U.S. There have been legislative and regulatory tweaks over the years to accommodate unusual situations — omitting, say, foreign diplomats and their families in the country at the time of the count — but there is nothing in the Constitution that says people must be citizens to be counted for purposes of reapportionment
Trump targets undocumented residents once again in a new executive order.
Trump issued an executive order that calls for an unprecedented change to the constitutionally mandated count of every person living in the country. His directive instructs the U.S. Census Bureau to not count undocumented immigrants for purposes of apportioning seats in the House of Representatives, targeting states like California, Texas and New York with large communities of residents who lack a legal immigration status.
If enacted, however, the policy could have a seismic political impact, as states can gain or lose seats in the House every 10 years after the census, depending on how their populations compare to others. The census data is also used to allocate federal resources to states and local communities, however, Trump’s order doesn’t target this funding.
Dale Ho, an ACLU attorney who fought against Trump’s proposed citizenship question, signaled that a new lawsuit could be in the works against Tuesday’s directive.
“The Constitution requires that everyone in the U.S. be counted in the census. President Trump can’t pick and choose. He tried to add a citizenship question to the census and lost in the Supreme Court,” Ho said in statement. “His latest attempt to weaponize the census for an attack on immigrant communities will be found unconstitutional. We’ll see him in court, and win, again.”
Congress represents all people in their states – not just citizens.
The U.S. has long counted non-citizens, including undocumented residents, for the purpose of congressional apportionment. The Constitution says that each state must have at least one representative, and that the apportionment of others should be based on an enumeration of the population.
Therefore, Trump’s authority to exclude unauthorized immigrants is expected to face court challenges, as it appears to be a direct attack on the constitution and the 14th Amendment.
Until the 14th Amendment was ratified in the 1860s, enslaved African Americans were counted as three-fifths of a person for congressional apportionment. American Indians “not taxed” were excluded until 1940.
The 14th Amendment also requires the enumeration of “the whole number of persons in each State.”
The new order comes after the Trump administration has repeatedly tried to change the 2020 Census.
Trump’s new order is part of an ongoing effort to exclude undocumented residents, and part of his campaign to fundamentally change how the government conducts its census every 10 years.
Late last year, the Trump administration proposed including a question on U.S. citizenship during the 2020 census. But its efforts do so, which it said were aimed at enforcing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, elicited a flurry of legal challenges that ended up at the Supreme Court, which blocked the administration from adding the question in time for the questionnaires to be printed.
During the litigation over the question, it was revealed that Thomas Hofeller, a now deceased conservative political operative, played a role in helping the administration craft the justification for the citizenship question addition, which he said in a 2015 study would allow officials to draw electoral maps advantageous to “Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites.”
Trump’s order could have a major impact on several states’ representation in Congress.
Several U.S. states have large undocumented residents populations and many of them regularly vote Democratic. This order, if enacted, would have a major effect on congressional representation and would shift political power away from reliably blue states to reliably red states.
Two of the states losing electoral votes — California and New York — are reliably Democratic. Two states gaining — Alabama and Ohio — usually vote Republican.