805 UndocuFund raising millions after being ‘bombarded’ with aid applications this spring
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The 805 UndocuFund re-launched in Santa Barbara County in March in order to provide undocumented immigrants with financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.
The fund has raised $3.9 million dollars since then, according to Future Leaders of America Executive Director Eder Gaona-Macedo. The Fund had to close applications until further notice on May 1 after seeing enormous demand.
In just one month, more than 7,000 households in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties applied for aid.
“It was a very hard decision,” UndocuFund coordinator Aldo Campos said. “We’re pretty much just already bombarded with so many applicants and obviously so much need is already there. So with this number of 7,000 applicants, we would roughly need over $6.5 million to be able to assist all 7,000 applicants.”
The fund sends payments of up to $1,200 to approved applicants. It received an anonymous $1 million donation in May and continues to see generosity from across the area.
The Ventura County Community Foundation has been the Fund's fiduciary since the beginning, ensuring that 100 percent of donations go to the families who have applied for aid.
Community Foundation President & CEO Vanessa Bechtel says it is a "privilege" to work with the UndocuFund team, applauding its depth, generosity and grassroots energy. She says the Santa Barbara and Ventura County communities have embraced the cause and are showing how much they care through donations.
Arcelia Sencion, co-founder of the Santa Barbara Latino Giving Circle, says donating to the UndocuFund was an "easy choice" for the group of 15 that formed last fall. She says the SBLGC wants to promote Latino-led organizations and help fulfill the needs of the local Latino community, which in this case is extra financial assistance to help people make end's meet.
“We have agreed to a contribution of a thousand dollars per year,” Sencion said. “But we’re hoping that more, other community leaders will join us to ensure that we leverage those resources.”
Campos identified many undocumented workers in the service sector as those who lost their jobs or had wages or hours cut during the pandemic, and were unable to receive funding elsewhere.
This spring, the state of California set aside emergency funds for undocumented immigrants during the crisis, but their status prevents them from receiving federal aid.
Applicants have other barriers to aid as well.
“Some of them… they’re not able to read, write, or sometimes even speak English or Spanish,” Campos said. “They speak in their dialect which is Mizteco… this population is primarily the people who are working in our fields.”
Gaonoa-Macedo says many undocumented immigrants are living in fear.
“They’re afraid that, you know, if they get any type of financial support, their information’s gonna be sent to the government, and then they’re gonna get deported to their country of origin,” he said.
“We have gotten some hate calls. We have gotten some hate mail from individuals who don’t think that we should be doing this," he added. "That’s definitely made us more aware and increased our security [for applicant identities].”
Gaona-Macedo also says that for the problem to truly be remedied, the federal government must do more to provide aid and promote comprehensive immigration reform.
“Extend unemployment benefits to undocumented immigrants as well,” he said. “We need to make sure that the 11 million [undocumented] individuals here in this country have a pathway to citizenship, and that we abolish ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] because they’re terrorizing our community members and our neighbors.”
The 805 UndocuFund first launched in 2018 to help immigrants in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow--raising $2 million for roughly 1,300 families, some of whom lost homes, their employment or wages.
For more information about the Fund or donations, click here.