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May 11, 2020 — Jesuit apostolates in Washington state have released a letter to the state’s governor and leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate calling for a relief fund for undocumented immigrants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, titled “A Letter from the Ministries and Communities of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) Call for a Relief Fund for Undocumented Workers,” advocates for the 250,000 undocumented workers in the state who, despite paying taxes and working in industries that are highly impacted by the crisis, have been left out of the federal COVID-19 relief packages.


Migrant workers clean fields amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Shannon Stapleton, Reuters)

Fr. John Whitney, SJ

The letter was drafted by Fr. John Whitney, SJ, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Seattle, and has been signed by 18 Jesuit ministries in three cities, including the pastors of St. Leo Church in Tacoma and St. Aloysius in Spokane, the presidents of Seattle University and Gonzaga University, and Jesuits West provincial Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ.

The letter is accompanied by an action alert, both which urge the creation of a “Washington Worker Relief Fund” through the governor’s office with at least $100 million initially allocated, initially outlined by partners at the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, to provide emergency economic assistance to undocumented Washingtonians. The advocacy effort also urges the creation of a permanent system to provide wage replacement protection to workers who lose their jobs and are excluded from the current unemployment insurance system, including undocumented immigrants.

This effort was conceived by the Jesuits West Province’s Faith Doing Justice Discernment Series, including delegates in Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane with assistance from Annie Fox, the Provincial Assistant for Social Ministry Organizing for the province.

The effort calls upon the recent words of Pope Francis: “The present pandemic, however, reminds us that there are no differences or borders between those who suffer. We are all frail, all equal, all precious … This is not some ideology: it is Christianity.”

“As communities of faith, as partners with you in the protection and development of our common good, as women and men of compassion, we call upon you now to do what must be done, and what the federal government seems unwilling to do: create this program for undocumented families and individuals, so that all Washingtonians might recover and rebuild our state,” leaders of Jesuit works stated in the letter.

The letter was created in support of an earlier letter and action organized by the Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network, signed by over 400 organizations in Washington including Jesuit works. After a little more than a month, a similar action alert paired with a fundraising campaign has received over 2,600 contributions totaling over $1,118,000 with a goal of $2,000,000. All proceeds will go to undocumented families. [Source: Ignatian Solidarity Network]

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