F&M Stories

Left Behind: Research Highlights Immigrant Hardships During COVID

Born in Quito, Ecuador, Franklin & Marshall rising junior Yuliana Tamayo knows firsthand the uncertainties faced by immigrants arriving in the United States. 

Her summer research highlighted the unique economic hardships endured by immigrants in Lancaster during the height of the pandemic.

“This community was ignored and left to survive on their own during one of the worst catastrophes the world has seen in years,” said Tamayo, a sociology and government joint major and a French minor.

The Cooperman College Scholar assessed the economic effects of COVID-19 on immigrants in Lancaster under the tutelage of Stephanie McNulty, associate professor of government. 

“I had recently gotten funding for this project through the Center for Sustained Engagement with Lancaster and asked Yuliana to work on it with me. She is a talented student and is fluent in Spanish. She seemed like the perfect person for the project,” McNulty said. 

Tamayo spent her summer gathering interviews and data about the effects of coronavirus on immigrants, specially undocumented immigrants. The study is part of a collaboration between F&M and Church World Services, a nonprofit agency serving the refugee and immigrant communities of Central Pennsylvania.

Yuliana Tamayo

“Throughout the pandemic, undocumented immigrants have been one of the most vulnerable groups. Due to their status, they have been unable to receive any type of help such as stimulus checks or access to health care,” Tamayo said.

In spite of this, there has been overwhelmingly little research and information in regard to the true pandemic hardships experienced by these populations – both in Lancaster and across the country. 

McNulty, Tamayo and peer researchers examined the overall impact of COVID on economic well-being (both immediately and in the longer term), variations by family status, occupations and nationality, and potential policy responses to mitigate these effects. 

“I think we have all been struck by the way that undocumented immigrants and their families – sometimes with children who are U.S. citizens – had access to no services or assistance during the shutdown,” McNulty said. 

For instance, the first stimulus check was not available to mixed status families – those with some citizens or permanent residents and some non-permanent. 

Through firsthand interviews and data, Tamayo hopes her research can shed light on solutions for the immigrant community in Lancaster. 

“I believe that this project enables immigrants to use their voices and share their experiences and struggles with the world,” she said.

Read Yuliana Tamayo’s March 2020 Op-Ed in LNP: Reaching for, and realizing, the American dream

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