Policy report on immigrants & COVID draws on research by Sociology undergrads

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Responding to COVID-19: Immigrants Face Major Barriers to Accessing Essential Services in the SF Bay Area


example what immigrants facing covid might look like

COVID-19 disproportionately impacts foreign-born communities due to the overlapping issues of poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and legal vulnerabilities among immigrants. Where can immigrants turn to for help during an emergency like the pandemic? What barriers do they face in accessing necessary services? This brief summarizes key issues around immigrant service provision in the San Francisco Bay Area in the context of an emergency such as COVID-19 or wildfires, from economic aid to food assistance. It shines a light on the structural inequities that immigrants face, especially those who are low-income. In particular, the brief highlights best practices to tackle seven key challenges: barriers to accessible healthcare, employment and housing vulnerabilities, obstacles to obtaining economic assistance, fear over using public benefits (even when eligible), going hungry, language barriers, and the digital divide.


Integrating Teaching, Training & Research


This policy report is result from integrating the teaching and training of undergraduate students and BIMI’s ongoing research and was made possible by the generous support of the Unger Foundations and the Collegium Grant at UC Berkeley. In Fall 2019, 6 talented undergraduate students were hired as part of the Collegium Fellowship. These 6 Collegium Fellows received training in research methods and conducted research for the Mapping Spatial Inequality Project. In Spring 2020, these 6 Collegium Fellows became mentors and helped coaching students from the course “Contemporary Immigration in Global Perspective” taught by Prof. Bloemraad in conducting research and using the data from the Mapping Spatial Inequality Project. 

Unexpectedly, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. In an effort to conduct relevant research, the focus of this year’s project pivoted to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the local Bay Area migrant communities, evaluating current efforts to support these communities, and identifying best practices. This allows us to not only draw lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, but also teaches us how to ensure migrant well-being in future emergencies, such as wildfires, earthquakes, or other emergencies. The results of the undergraduate students’ work was presented at the end of the Fall semester in an online symposium "Who Counts? Civic Engagement and COVID-19 Services for Immigrants in the Bay Area" to over 70 policy makers, researchers, and other stakeholders. One of the student teams, for example, built a website assessing the impact of COVID-19 on migrants living in San Mateo county and assessing available resources.

During the 2020 Summer, three undergraduate students, Nina Narahari, Sydney Pon, and Salomé Ragot, worked with Jasmijn Slootjes to write up the overall conclusions in this policy report. We are proud to present the final policy report, an example of the benefits of integrating teaching, training, and research at UC Berkeley and at BIMI specifically.