One after another, crises and the government’s (lack of) response to the crisis continues to have grave consequences for our members who are immigrants and workers of color. Our community has fought back one attack after another from Trump’s administration and now, we fight for our communities lives at a different scale. A vast majority of our community members live in Queens, which is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. Day after day we are responding to this crisis.
We rise with our community in not just fighting the pandemic but in fighting to create a more just system that not not only sees who we are but centers our lives! It’s incredible to see our community power and resilience in action during this time. Our members have shown up for one another, volunteered for mutual aid relief networks and risen to the challenge of organizing while on lock down.
Adhikaar has shifted to respond to COVID-19 crisis in Queens. In early March we created a four-part crisis response plan based on thousands of calls made to our members:
- Direct relief & services
- Community education
- Campaigns & advocacy
Our worker members are in essential and low-wage industries and are working in the frontlines as domestic workers, Uber/Lyft drivers, grocery store workers, delivery services, restaurant workers, and healthcare workers. Many are also unable to go to work and are not eligible for any of the federal relief packages or unemployment from the state. And many live in some of the hardest-hit zip codes in the country. This crisis demonstrates the harrowing realities of our current social and economic systems and the way it affects those that are extremely vulnerable.
Your donation will ensure that we are building power and strengthening our community in the middle of this crisis. We have shifted the vast majority of our work to respond to this crisis and are mindfully evolving with the realities of not just this pandemic but the economic crisis that is impacting our community. This crisis also intensifies the urgency of our vision of empowering our members to create systemic change to protect those most vulnerable and help our communities thrive. Our commitment to social justice and for low-wage immigrant workers is at the heart of our campaign to battle the COVID-19 crisis.
In all this, we continue to do what we do best – be present and accessible to our community, respond to immediate needs, fight for what our members deserve, and build power with our members and allies. From support and services on unemployment, housing, food or medical supplies to emergency relief funds, we are responding daily to the everyday shifts of this pandemic. Till date, we have supported 1,300+ direct inquiries from the community. Our community is resilient and working tirelessly to fill in the gaps in the safety-net system through mutual aid.
- Unemployment assistance: We set up a virtual unemployment benefits clinic with volunteer Nepali-speaking lawyers to support our most-vulnerable worker members – those who are limited English proficiency or limited literacy, those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or those working in informal sectors
- Health access: We have a volunteer team of Nepali-speaking doctors and nurses who provide e-consultations to members who are not able to access health clinics or hospitals. We have facilitated language support for individuals checking in to hospitals and are training members to be mental health peer-supporters.
- Food and supplies: We are distributing groceries and essential supplies like masks, gloves and hand sanitizer to our essential worker members and other families.
Community education is key in flattening the curve. Our public education video series to address COVID-19 related concerns and questions from the community, as well as provide regular updates on campaigns and advocacy work happening on a local and federal level. These videos are vetted for accurate information and language accessible for not just those with limited English proficiency but those who are limited in literacy, as well as for those that are hard of hearing. To date, the videos have been shared on our Facebook page and have garnered 195.9k views total. In addition to videos, we utilize phone banks, phone and direct message inquiries, online members chats and meetings to distribute up to date pertinent information and address community concerns.
We are consistently adapting our response based on community needs while ensuring that we’re shedding light on the broader systemic inequalities that this crisis exacerbates. Adhikaar staff and members are working on campaigns to win better protections for our communities.
- Quarantine facilities: We won quarantine facilities from the city by working with our local electeds like Councilmember Danny Dromm, so that our members could safely quarantine away from crowded quarters.
- #CancelRent: We’re organizing people to channel their frustration and uplift their stories and pressure Governor Cuomo through campaigns like #CancelRent. We have begun to engage domestic worker and nail salon worker members on the NY state campaign for rent suspension by joining the Housing Justice 4 All campaign.
- Language access: We continue to engage in administrative advocacy pushes with the Department of Labor and NY Governor’s office for better language access in Nepali and to address concerns in the unemployment system. We also have spoken to the media on the importance of disaggregated data in creating language access.
- Testing: We are working to bring testing that is accurate and accessible to the heart of our communities.
- Immigration: We continue to fight for permanent residency for all TPS holders. As this crisis lingers, we are racing the clock on TPS. Almost 300,000 TPS holders could lose their status by January (pending decision from a federal lawsuit our members are a part of) . We are campaigning for extension of TPS in the federal relief packages (and through other legislative means) and expanding our work to campaign for undocumented community members, relief for all regardless of status, extending emergency Medicaid in all states, expanding federal language access and a call to empty the detention centers and demand an end to deportations. For more information, read our unity statement here with African Communities Together, Undocublack Network and Haitian Bridge Alliance.
- Census: We shifted our census campaign work to completely online and continue to move our campaign forward to ensure that all Nepalis are accurately counted in the 2020 census. To date we have mobilized dozens of volunteers and community members as fellows and collectively phonebanked and textbanked 7,000 Nepali and Tibetan community members. We have partnered with local NYC and national Nepali media outlets to run educational ads in Nepali.
We are training our members, many who have limited digital literacy, to better use technology to organize, advocate, receive services and continue training and Know-Your-Rights sessions. We are strengthening the digital capacity of our members by engaging with them through regular phone calls, video sharing platforms, digital messaging applications, social media, and beyond. With all of this, we continue to build community power, and alongside our partners organize to build a more accessible, just, and free future.
We are analyzing and adapting to the rapidly changing landscape in our community and the government response to the crisis. We continue to engage our members to get a better understanding of issues affecting them, and invest our community to work with other communities to create social change. We will build with our leaders, partners, and allies to ensure that we continue to develop our member leaders and that our community has relevant and accurate information on this ongoing crisis. We will work closely with our network of volunteers, members, partners and community leaders to develop innovative ways to support our community.
Design inspired by Desis Rising Up and Moving