Durham Mayor Steve Schewel, Durham County Board of Commissioners chairwoman Wendy Jacobs, members of the Durham and Raleigh city councils, and one Durham County commissioner have pledged all or part of their federal stimulus payments to undocumented residents who were shut out of financial assistance because of their immigration status. 

The officials were joined by more than 150 North Carolina residents whose donations will help seven Raleigh immigrant women whose husbands have been detained by ICE since January as well as a broader COVID-19 relief fund for undocumented families organized by the advocacy group Siembra NC. 

While undocumented individuals cannot access the $1,200 payments made available to most people under the CARES Act, many are taxpayers; in 2018, they paid an estimated $639 billion in state and federal taxes. 

Nonetheless, Latinx advocacy groups say even U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants who filed their taxes jointly are ineligible for stimulus checks.

Schewel and Jacobs are joined by Durham County Commissioner Heidi Carter; Durham City Council members Javiera Caballero, Jillian Johnson, Mark-Anthony Middleton, and Charlie Reece; and Raleigh City Council members Nicole Stewart and Saige Martin in taking part in the #ShareYourCheck Challenge. 

“We’re encouraging everyone who can to donate,” said Cabellero, who made history in November by becoming the first Latinx person elected to the Durham council. “There are many ways to help those who are struggling, and this fund is one of them.”

“We’re doing what we can to look after everyone struggling in our city, especially people who are barred from any federal relief aid,” Johnson said on Twitter. “That’s why I’m donating part of my stimulus check to the solidarity fund.” 

“Moments like this define who will rise and who is left behind,” Martin said in a statement. “As federal programs struggle to reach those that qualify, it’s clear to me that we must give back to those who are the backbone of this country, yet, too often do not qualify for aid. I call on my fellow residents with any capacity to join me in donating their stimulus check or any amount to the Siembra Solidarity Fund. Let’s ensure we all rise together.”

The #ShareYourCheck campaign kicked off on Saturday with “Sábado Gigante,” a Facebook Live telethon hosted by younger immigrant members of Siembra NC who have also pledged their stimulus checks. During the 12-hour event, more than 200 donors gave $13,063.88, more than doubling the group’s $5,000 goal.

The Facebook live broadcast—which can be viewed in four parts—included James Beard-nominated Raleigh chef Oscar Diaz with a cooking demonstration, Durham rocker Cristy Road Carrera, Raleigh drag queen “Tesoro,” and 18 others; it has garnered more than 21,000 views. 

The pledges can be viewed at tiny.cc/pledgesiembra. Donations can be made at tiny.cc/covidrelief.

Contact staff writer Thomasi McDonald at tmcdonald@indyweek.com. 

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