‘They started laying off everybody’: A DACA recipient talks about life during the coronavirus pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to devastate the United States, it has had a disproportionate impact on Latino families and workers. Because of the crisis, the unemployment rate among Latinos has risen to 18.9%, and 61% of Latinos report that they have lost some of their income as a result of the pandemic.

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

UnidosUS’s network of nearly 300 community-based Affiliates are working hard to ensure that members of their community, predominantly Latino and immigrant, have access to the resources that they need in order to keep food on the table for themselves and their families and keep healthy. One of those Affiliates is Gads Hill Center, based in Chicago. As the crisis has progressed, they have used an emergency fund to help vulnerable families cover their groceries, rent, and medical bills during this uncertain time.

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One of the people that Gads Hill Center has been helping out through their emergency fund is Diana Rodriguez, a 25-year-old mother and DACA recipient who lives in the city with her family. Diana has lived in the United States for the past 22 years.

Diana (center) with her family.

Diana feels grateful to have DACA status. For example, when her father had an accident and needed a prothesis for his knee, she was able to work and help him out with rent.

However, the pandemic has created new challenges for Diana’s family’s life in Chicago, where Diana previously worked as a warehouse manager.

“I had stopped working at the end of February to be with my baby,” Diana explains. “In March, they started laying off my mom, my dad, everybody.” She notes that both her mother and brother work in the hospitality industry, which has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus.

Since then, Diana and her mother have worked as cleaning staff for local dialysis clinics. While it means having to take a 40-minute drive to get to the clinics, it means about four hours of work a day, and it has given her family the opportunity to put a little bit of money away as the pandemic continues.

Gads Hill, Diana notes, was able to help with rent in the aftermath of her family being laid off from their jobs. “We were struggling for a few weeks,” she explains. While Diana notes that she was able to receive a tax refund and a stimulus check, this has not been enough to help with expenses.


The COVID-19 pandemic is not a distant reality for Diana. Her father, two uncles, and her sister-in-law have all been diagnosed with COVID-19. Her sister-in-law was diagnosed first and required emergency surgery when she arrived at the hospital in order to be able to breathe.

She has been in the ICU for the past two weeks on a ventilator, which has been difficult on her brother, who was diagnosed with leukemia. “That’s the love of his life, that’s his rock,” she says, noting that her family calls the hospital every day to see how she’s doing, and has been helping him out with his sons as he continues treatment.

When her sister-in-law was diagnosed with COVID-19 at the hospital, anyone who had contact with her was ordered to be isolated. As a result, both her father and one of her uncles who were in contact with her sister-in-law and were required to be in isolation for two and a half weeks.

“He lost more than 22 pounds, he had no appetite, he had a cough and fever,” Diana says of her father.

Her other uncle, who lives in Mexico, wasn’t as lucky, and passed away at the beginning of this month.

“In Mexico, there’s not a lot of resources for the hospital—the hospital’s already busy. They weren’t able to do anything for him anymore,” she explains.


“My sister-in-law has COVID but has no insurance—don’t know how much the bills are going to be in the end,” Diana says. The diagnoses in her family—coupled with her sister-in-law’s condition—have brought home just how dangerous the virus can be.

“It made me realize the virus is real, and it can hit really hard,” she says. Diana adds that she herself does not have insurance either.

The coronavirus has continued to impact Diana’s daily life and the lives of her family. Like many families in our community, Diana and her family are renters. Diana notes that her landlord has held off on collecting rent for her family’s home, because he is aware that people are struggling right now because of the pandemic and they have a history of paying their rent on time. However, this has not been the same case for her brother.

“In his neighborhood, he said he received a letter from his landlord saying that it doesn’t matter if they don’t have money, they still need to pay their rent,” Diana explains.

She also notes that there are many members of the community that don’t have health insurance, and during this pandemic, the last thing that anyone needs to worry about is unexpected medical bills.  “This pandemic has not only struck me, but a lot of people in the community,” she explains.

To policymakers, Diana has one simple message. “Help more of the community if they’re diagnosed with COVID,” she says.

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