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Statement: Including Immigrants and Refugees In Our Response to COVID-19

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly shifted the fundamentals of our daily lives. The challenges we face are unprecedented and require unprecedented resources. Through this crisis, we have seen tremendous acts of goodwill as communities, organizations, and governments mobilize to meet critical needs. We have been humbled by the philanthropic sector’s response, both nationally and here in Greater Philadelphia. This spirit of “we are all in this together” taps into a collective sense of hope and strength.  

While the virus doesn’t discriminate, the systems in this country do discriminate. Millions of people in our country need relief - and many will see some from the federal government and rapid-response funds. Still, others will be left out. Race, country of origin, native language, documentation status, socioeconomic status, and myriad other factors dictate who will be hurt most by COVID-19. As philanthropy continues to respond to community needs, we must be intentional in our embrace of communities who will be disproportionately affected. 

Particularly vulnerable in this crisis are immigrants and refugees. Pennsylvania is home to more than 800,000 immigrants, an estimated 180,000 of whom are undocumented. More than 93,000 undocumented neighbors live in the Greater Philadelphia region. While undocumented workers in Pennsylvania pay millions in state and local taxes, they will nonetheless be excluded from most economic relief and recovery supports.

In Philadelphia, one in five people in the labor force is an immigrant. Many of these residents work in service jobs in the health care and education, hospitality, and retail sectors: industries that have been hit hardest by this crisis. Of course, immigrants and refugees do not represent the only community disproportionately impacted by this crisis. Many who work in the cash economy don’t have a paid bank of sick days, access to unemployment insurance, or a guarantee of health care.

As we step-up with compassion and increased funding, let’s ensure that we are supporting relief funds and nonprofit organizations that are inclusive of the people who allow our economy to function – even as they are left out of its riches. Let’s be sure that the next time we say, “we are all in this together,” that we prove it in our actions. 

We have a strong network of immigrant-serving organizations and grassroots community organizing groups who need our support. In the wake of this virus, we can work toward being stronger - and healthier - than ever before.

As we respond to immediate needs, mindful of those disproportionately harmed, let’s also support efforts to make all of our systems more equitable.  If we get this right, when the next virus comes, we truly will be in this together.

We ask our fellow colleagues to consider the following actions:

  • Sign onto to this letter as a commitment to intentionally strengthen the organizations and movements supporting our immigrant and refugee communities during this crisis;

  • Support organizations that are advocating for systems-level changes that are inclusive of race, class, gender and immigration status. Systems level changes such as universal paid sick leave, access to healthcare for all and living wages;

  • Ensure that your grantmaking practice and decision-making includes representation of the communities that your funding supports.  


Please email Amy Seasholtz at if you would like to add your organization's name as a supporter of this statement.