The New Mexico Supreme Court in March ordered a halt to evictions for people who can’t make rent amid the pandemic. But last Thursday a property owner in Albuquerque tried to evict a family from Africa. KUNM’s Khalil Ekulona spoke with Nkazi Sinandile, President of the Immigrant and Refugee Resource Village of Albuquerque, about the challenges faced by her community and how that eviction was still happening.
NKAZI SINANDILE: I think that some people may be not informed, or maybe they're just being impossible. And especially when they know that the families that we serve, most of them don't even speak English. And most of them don't even know the policies, and most of them, to tell you the truth, even though they may have a TV in their homes, they do not really watch the news. So that means that they're really cut out of whatever is happening, especially at this time.
KUNM: Yeah, but you know, they may not speak English, they may not watch the news or understand what the policies are, but I'm sure the owners of the property very well understood what the policies are.
SINANDILE: It is horrible. And I know that with our African community that people will just don't like us, but they will take our money, we'll pay rent, they’ll take the money, not that they really care about us that they will put it that way. So that's one thing I would say because I don't see how someone could do that, knowing that they're not supposed to evict anyone at this time.
KUNM: Tell us all a little bit more about the families and the people you work with.
SINANDILE: As far as, for instance, the COVID-19, seemingly the students, before the schools closed, the students were kind of like really educated about coronavirus. And so the young people who go to school are able to at least teach their families. But sometimes, for instance, depending on where we come from, from our countries, for the older folks, sometimes we kind of like don't want to believe and we maybe sometimes don't take things seriously. But overall, with the help of the community leaders, you know, we have about maybe eight community leaders who are trusted messengers so they are able to at least try to go to their homes and give fliers, which have been translated into their languages. Even though some of these families, most of them, the adults don't read. Even some of the students, even though they go to Highland High School, they speak English but they don't read, but they will try you know, to help them so that they can understand what is going on with the coronavirus, how to prevent themselves from getting infected, and what to do if they do feel that you know, like, maybe they are sick, then they tell them how to go to the doctors, etc.
KUNM: Now, we know a lot of people are not going to get those stimulus checks that are supposed to be heading our way sometime this month. Is that true for the people you work with? And how does that change the survival conversation?
SINANDILE: With our community there are people who have lost their jobs and so they are already not working. And so they are being helped by Human Services and other refugee serving organizations to apply for unemployment. There are people who have been here maybe, let's say for three or five years and have worked, and they claim taxes, so those will get their monies. But there are people who have recently arrived and are not going to file taxes. Those are the ones who struggle because they will not get that stimulus check. So those are the ones that organizations have to look out for, and find ways to support them.
KUNM: What are some ways that our listeners can help these organizations to help people?
SINANDILE: Mostly everybody now is doing GoFundMe campaigns. But I think that if people want to help, they need to go and find out which organizations are serving refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers, and then find out from those people what they can help with. It's hard for organizations. There's about maybe about 12 organizations who are serving refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers, and every organization is doing their own thing to raise funds.
CORRECTION (Sunday, April 12, 8p): This story has been corrected to reflect that the legality of the eviction is unknown; KUNM was unable to confirm whether Thursday's attempted eviction was rent-based or for another reason.
This is an excerpt from a longer interview that originally aired on our show Your NM Government. Catch it every weeknight at 7:30 p.m. here on KUNM, or find it wherever you get your podcasts. Your NM Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS and the Santa Fe Reporter.