Fund will help undocumented Detroiters amid COVID-19 crisis 

    Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Immigration Task Force | Ken Coleman

    The city of Detroit has partnered with community groups to offer grants to assist residents without legal immigrant status who have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

    City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López, who heads the city’s Immigration Task Force, was part of a group announcing Thursday that the city has secured a $750,000 grant from the New York City-based philanthropic group Open Society Foundations to establish what they call Detroit COVID-19 UndocuFund.

    It will help Detroiters without legal immigration status and impacted by COVID-19. Mayor Mike Duggan and several members of the task force were part of the announcement.

    “Our immigrant communities have been a part of this city for generations, making major contributions to the social, cultural and economic fabric of our city,” said Castañeda-López, the first person of Latin descent to sit on the city’s legislative body. “Detroit’s immigrant population is approximately 6.1%. We estimate that about 15,000 to 20,000 of these Detroit residents are undocumented. This grant will provide much needed relief to those most vulnerable in our communities and strengthen the impact of the community organizations that serve them.”

    COVID-19 has disproportionately affected communities of color in Michigan and throughout the country. Duggan said the effort is an important one.

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    “The city of Detroit recognizes that undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable, due to the increased risk of infection they face as essential workers, language barriers and their ineligibility for federal relief packages,” said Duggan.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled back the curtain and laid bare society’s failure to provide basic protections for essential and frontline workers,” said Patrick Gaspard, Open Society Foundations president. “Absent any leadership and a plan from the federal government, philanthropy and the private sector have stepped in and stepped up to help our neighbors in Detroit and elsewhere. These immigrants, domestic and undocumented workers are the people keeping our country running, and yet have been purposely excluded from federal relief packages.”

    The effort will provide grants of $500 to $2,000 to applicants. Detroit Hispanic Development Corp. (DHDC) will serve as the fiduciary. To ensure that the funds reach the undocumented individuals and families who qualify for the program, DHDC will work with The Islamic Center of Detroit, Global Detroit, African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs, and One Michigan to disburse the monies.

    DHDC Executive Director Angie Reyes said it is “grateful for the opportunity to help get the resources provided by the Open Society Foundations to those organizations that are on the ground working directly with the various immigrant communities in our city so that the help goes to those most in need.” 

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.