ONR 12-29-20: LA County's working immigrants do have COVID-19 protection, here are some resources

Dudley Najieb also reviews the stats on Black immigrants in California


By ONME Newswire

Producer host Julia Dudley Najieb reviewed role model California county, Los Angeles County (LA County) for its outreach to vulnerable and hard-to-reach communities. Several featured speakers discussed in detail services available for immigrant residents, documented or undocumented.



According to the State of Black Immigrants Research Institute: Black Alliance for Just Immigration at the University of Southern California - Los Angeles (BAJI at USC)


Black immigrants are much more likely than nationals from other regions to be deported due to a criminal conviction, as stated on their website (http://stateofblackimmigrants.com/.)


More than one out of every five non-citizens facing deportation on criminal grounds before the Executive Office for Immigration Review is Black.


The report further explained that Black people are far more likely than any other population to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. criminal enforcement system—the system upon which immigration enforcement increasingly relies. Immigrants are exposed to more risks and vulnerability when they are stopped by the police for minor offenses, such as broken taillights and traffic violations. When the police decide to take on the duties of federal immigration enforcement, they often use these stops to question people about their immigration status and to turn immigrants over to ICE.


According to BAJI at USC, immigrants make up 6.5 percent of California’s Black population.


Michael Nobleza, is the FUSE executive advisor for the Office of Immigrant Affairs (OIA.) He discussed the upcoming Essential Worker Summit hosted by OIA, including the essential worker support initiatives that OIA is planning for the upcoming year.


Nobleza does not think people should look at immigrants as if they are outsiders or "others."


"Undocumented immigrants give $544 million in tax revenue -- make up 40-60% of essential workforce--they are on the front lines of the pandemic so that other members of the population can stay home and stay safe, " said Nobleza. He said an estimated two million people who live in mixed families did not receive any CARES Act funding, nor did theyhave access.


Immigrant women are significantly represented in sanitation jobs and as care givers. They make up 55% of the job loss at the beginning of the pandemic.


Nobleza discussed the Essential Workers Plan and the two-day summit coming up.


It was reiterated that it is important to hold big corporate businesses accountable to keeping essential workers safe--an example is Amazon who is getting sued for such poor conditions for immigrant workers. Nobleza said that there are worker equity and safety tools that can be used to address such issues dealing with workplace health.


Rose Basmadzhyan, is chief of the Wage Enforcement Program & Investigation Division at the Dept. of Consumer & Business Affairs (DCBA.) She spoke about DCBA’s Minimum Wage Enforcement Program, the complaint process, and how it can help workers suffering from wage theft.


Her department's key job is to track down employers committing wage theft; they take anonymous complaints over the phone: 1-800-593-8222.


Basmadzhyan reviewed the new minimum wage ordinance for the county adopted Nov. 17, 2015. The law became effective in July 2016 for larger business and then a year after for small businesses. They have reached over 2,000 businesses in incorporated areas in an effort o educate them on the LA County's wage ordinances along with community partners. Basmadzhyan said they do not need a complaint to investigate a business; tips, patrons, customers and anonymous information can be used as well to start the process. Immigration status is irrelevant; cases will still be investigated.


There staff conducts investigations against employers violating this law, they also issue citations and go through a due process. Employers who do not compile can face up to $100 per day per violation to $1,000 per day per violation, depending on the violation.


"We have the authority to engage in settlements ...," said Basmadzhyan. "We reached over 1,500 employees for whom we have received back wages, we have garnered over $1.3 million back wages to those 1,500 employees along with fines as well --we do not negotiate with back wages."


Monica Nguyen, GAIN program director for the Dept of Public Social Services (DPSS,) discussed a variety of career training resources offered through the GAIN Program for unemployed or underemployed workers who are eligible for the CalWORKs Program.


The program helps with people in need of cash assistance, nutritional benefits, health care and job training programs, they provide essential services to over 3.5 million people in LA County in over 19 different languages. They are the country's largest social service agency.


"Last year at this time, the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, as of October, the rate in 12.3 percent, peaking in September at 15.5 percent... for us it represents a person, a parent, a family who needs our services and deserves much dignity and respect why they receive those services."


There are even services to help with purchasing diapers for struggling families.


GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence is state and federally funded) Program is a welfare-to-work program job training for LA County's California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids Program population (CalWORK)--equivalent to the state's temporary need assistance for families program. Children from age 18-19 and younger can get cash assistance. They provide job training, educational programs, intensive case management, subsidized employment, adult education, help with domestic violence, substance abuse disorders and mental health services.


Nguyen pointed out the importance of the services of the Dept. of Mental Health and how important emotional well being is critical during this time for families.


"Through the GAIN program our goal is to help CALWorks families to eliminate barriers," said Nguyen, "help them through this particularly tough time and be ready for when our economy starts to have more opportunity and be competitive in the work force."


People can check for eligibility by calling: 877-292-4246 (292-GAIN)


CALFresh is the most impacted out of all of the programs. When employment runs out, Nguyen are concerned that there will be an overload of the cash programs which could overwhelm the program


Yvonne Garcia Medrano, directing attorney for the Employment Rights Project at Bet Tzedek, discussed the workplace safety and anti-retaliation issues faced by many essential workers during the pandemic.


They are a legal non-profit and are able to provide services for undocumented workers. They have really been dealing with cases of wage theft. Many times the undocumented workers are worried about getting fired or retaliation for speaking up for their own rights. However the risk is outweighed by the benefit of reporting unlawful practices concerning their wages -- and the claims can take up to several months to a couple of years due to long delays--another major deterrent. In fact, Bank of America froze accounts of undocumented workers due to retaliatory methods of someone claiming they are not legal.


"We are honest with workers when we tell them that there are laws that protect against unlawful retaliation," said Medrano, "but the reality is that workers know that if they report a violation, they can get fired, they can be retaliated against. By now that is a risk that a lot of workers are not willing to take -- with unemployment being so high and it being almost impossible to find a new job, there's homes that are multiple people unemployed...there's these great laws out there, great protection, but workers aren't calling in to use them."


Medrano said their office can also provide help concerning the Employment Insurance System, EDD, which is currently beyond overwhelmed due to the pandemic.


Workers can call into the free weekly clinic, obtain free legal advice, regardless of immigration status.



(See full video excerpts above.)


Dedicated listeners, viewers and followers can find past ONR news producer, Dudley Najieb's weekly podcasts, The ONME News Review - News Too Real here.


Each week host Dudley Najieb broadcasts show News Too Real live under the ONME News Review, which distributes its original podcasts through The ONME Network and various third-party locations: watch her on the ONME Podcast Network at ONME TV Channel; listen via several external audio podcast outlets including: Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Castbox, Deezer, Podcast Addict, JioSaavn, Podchaser, iHeartRadio, Listennotes.com, and Spreaker; OTT apps Roku and Amazon Fire, and offline via cable TV. Audio podcasts are also available on the ONME News website.


In the Central Valley, from Stanislaus County to Tulare County, viewers can watch ONME original podcast programming during the ONME Network's time slot on TV (CMAC) Comcast Channel 93 and AT&T Channel 99. Watch The ONME News Review - News too Real on CMAC TV channels at 9:00 AM on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with encore broadcasts on Fridays at 6:00 PM.


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