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San Francisco Teacher Organizes Fund-Raising Effort To Help Undocumented Workers

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Even before Governor Newsom promised state funds to help undocumented workers through the pandemic, hundreds of San Francisco educators pledged part of their federal stimulus checks.

During the shelter in place, Frank Lara couldn't stop thinking of his fifth graders at Buena Vista Horace Mann Elementary School in the Mission District.

Many of the students and their families would not be getting federal stimulus checks.

"For a lot of our families, undocumented families, all they got is their hands. All they got is their labor. And they have to work two, three jobs to run a whole family in San Francisco, which is extremely expensive," Lara said.

Lara decided to ask members of his teachers' union to donate part of their federal stimulus checks.

"If we give more, then more families will benefit," he reasoned.

With the support of his union, the United Educators of San Francisco, nearly 300 members have raised more than $110,000 in relief.

"Any piece of compassion and humanity -- and there's been a lot -- keeps us going," said Union president Susan Solomon.

Applications are being processed through UndocuFund, a coalition of community groups like the nonprofit PODER.

PODER Civic Engagement Organizer Amy Aguilera says the need is great.

"We have families who live two to three families in one home and all of them have lost their jobs," said Aguilera.

Organizers say undocumented families can receive up to $1,000 per household.

Veronica plans to use the money for rent. She said her landlord threatened to evict their family of five after her husband lost his construction job.

"It means a lot," Veronica said through an interpreter. "The bills keep coming, the rent keeps coming, irrespective of our situation. And we can't make anymore cuts in our budget."

Organizers said the educators donated an average of nearly $400 a person to the fund.

Educators have donated a tenth of the $1.2 million UndocuFund has raised from all sources.

It has received more than 9,200 applications and given away 506 grants so far.

Lara himself gave $1,000 from his own stimulus check. Other teachers like Cassondra Curiel donated money, too.

"Frank is a great leader," Curiel said. "He does not shy away from topics that have traditionally been seen as taboo or too sensitive."

"With the little we have, if we can contribute and give and share, we can actually all rise together," Lara stated.

So for leading a campaign to donate federal stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Frank Lara.

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