Interview: How the Pandemic has Affected These Latinx Supporting Organizations and How You Can Help

Friday, October 22, 2021
With Hispanic Heritage Month recently coming to an end, the ACLU of Washington wanted to highlight the work of organizations that advocate for Latinx communities throughout the state. We asked three of the state’s organizations how the pandemic has impacted their work and how others can help. Here are their responses:

Sea Mar Community Health Centers

What kind of work does your organization specialize in?
Sea Mar Community Health Centers is a community-based organization committed to providing quality, comprehensive health, human, housing, educational and cultural services to diverse communities, specializing in service to Latinos in Washington state. The Sea Mar Seattle Adolescent Medical Clinic specializes in care for teenagers and young adults. Sea Mar proudly serves everyone regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, or sexual orientation, and regardless of ability to pay for services. Sea Mar's network of services includes more than 90 medical, dental, and behavioral health clinics, and a wide variety of nutritional, social, and educational services.

How has the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your organization’s work? What unique challenges have been revealed for the communities your organization serves?
There have been plenty of challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Adolescents are already vulnerable under non-pandemic circumstances, but with the pandemic removing the safeguards and resiliencies that come with school, teachers, friends, and peers, they’ve become even more vulnerable. The negative impact the pandemic has had on adolescent mental health has been significant. There have been vulnerabilities to misinformation on social media, increased vulnerability to depression and anxiety caused by social isolation, increased vulnerability to substance abuse, as well as physical and sexual abuse, lack of access to food, transport, and other resources. Vaccine hesitancy is another issue our clinic has faced, though we have been able to vaccinate most of the patients who come to the Adolescent Clinic. Most youth miss vaccines due to missed opportunities to discuss them. Addressing this requires every clinic member in the visit flow to take part in continuing the conversation with the patient. Most teens want to discuss the various concerns and "myths" they have heard on social media, from friends and family, and talking has been the first step.

How can people best help to support your organization?
Financial support helps Sea Mar serve everyone in need — especially those who can’t afford care. Most of Sea Mar’s clients live in poverty, and Sea Mar never turns anyone away based on their ability to pay. You can choose your level of impact: go to and you can designate your gift to Sea Mar’s general operating fund, or any program or clinic you wish to support.

Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN)

What kind of work does your organization specialize in?  
The Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network (WAISN) is the largest immigrant-led coalition in Washington building power in immigrant and refugee communities. We formed in November 2016 in response to the presidential election. With over 500 members, our power comes from our communities. Our members specialize in law, education, policy, direct services, labor, and many other areas, giving our movement even more strength. WAISN is led by directly impacted people, both in its steering committee and in its executive team.

How has the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your organization’s work? What unique challenges have been revealed for the communities your organization serves?
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, WAISN convened community members, partners, and allies to strategize on how to respond to the crisis within immigrant communities — and specifically undocumented communities — that were being excluded from most economic relief efforts. Our legislative work focused on bills that would provide economic relief through an unemployment benefits program and creating more access to low-cost basic healthcare. Ultimately, we secured about $100 million in economic relief that we distributed in the amount of $1,000 to more than 90,000 families across the state. We also worked with state agencies to ensure they understood the pandemic’s impact on Latinx and other immigrant workers.
One distinct challenge we faced was language. We primarily engage Spanish speakers, but our communications and meetings had primarily been in English. We began a Language Justice initiative in 2020, and now provide high-quality simultaneous interpretation in Spanish and English during our general membership meetings and any other community-centered spaces. Washington's immigrant communities speak many other languages, so we are also making efforts to reach folks who are indigenous from Mexico and Central America, as well as including other immigrant communities that speak other languages. With this initiative, we are ensuring that directly-impacted, and monolingual immigrants are able to better participate in our meetings, but most importantly, can fully capture and provide their guidance on policy and strategic discussions so that our work is truly immigrant-centered.

How can people best help to support your organization?
Connect with the WAISN network so you can receive alerts about immigration activity and can support your neighbors when they're under attack. Sign up for our email alerts, follow us on Facebook, and join our text message alert system by texting “WAISN” to (509) 300-4959.

Latinos En Spokane

What kind of work does your organization specialize in?
Latinos En Spokane works to support the Latino population in their integration, community development, and civic participation in Spokane County. We do our work through community events, educational workshops, activism, and partnering with local organizations to connect people to resources. We build capacity within Latino immigrant families and support the advancement of community members, future leaders, business owners, and organizations in Spokane to address the needs of the growing Latino population for a more equitable Spokane County.

How has the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your organization’s work? What unique challenges have been revealed for the communities your organization serves?
Prior to COVID-19, Latinx and immigrant communities already faced health disparities and difficulties accessing local state resources. Moreover, the current political climate and anti-immigrant sentiment, coupled with high deportation numbers, created deep distrust in accessing social services for community members fearful of placing a family member at risk of deportation or being reported as a public charge.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinos En Spokane created three new programs to address the unique and critical needs of the Latino and immigrant population in Spokane County:
  • Vaccine clinics and culturally responsive COVID-19 messaging. We have held culturally led vaccine clinics, vaccine facts and myth campaigning through social media to combat misinformation and get COVID-19 facts to our community.
  • Our Community Comadres Social Worker program provides wrap-around services and technical assistance to support families navigating state and local programs.
  • El Mercadito, a monthly outdoor market, offers free fresh food, hygiene products, and COVID-19 testing and vaccines for families, while providing support for local Latino and immigrant entrepreneurs.
How can people best help to support your organization?
For those who are able, please donate to Latinos En Spokane! All contributions help sustain our programs and amazing staff leading change in Spokane. Please consider volunteering at our office and center for Latinos En Spokane, events, and at El Mercadito.  Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Responses provided by: Teofila Cruz-Uribe of Sea Mar; Cariño Barragán Talancón of WAISN; and Jennyfer Mesa of Latinos En Spokane