February 7, 2022

Pilot project to study guaranteed basic income impacts on immigrant and mixed status families starts in March

A group of 330 undocumented and mixed status families living in 13 counties in New Mexico will participate in a pilot project starting in March that will study the impact of those families receiving a guaranteed basic income for 12 months.

The families will receive $500 a month for 12 months and participate in online surveys as well as more in-depth interviews on how the 12-month guaranteed income impacts their lives, officials said during a press conference held virtually on Monday.

The New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, a coalition of immigrant-based and advocacy organizations, is spearheading the project in conjunction with UpTogether, a California-based nonprofit that will be supplying $2 million of the grant money. The coalition also received an initial grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the project, Marcela Diaz, executive director of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, said during the press conference.

Jesús Gerena, chief executive officer of UpTogether, said the families studied will be selected through a randomized lottery system. So far, more than 2,000 families have applied but the coalition has extended the deadline to apply until Feb. 11 to encourage more applicants from Doña Ana County. Diaz said there is strong representation in the applicant pool from the other counties selected except for Doña Ana County.

Gerena said guaranteed basic income programs have been piloted in other cities but what makes this program unique is that it will be focused solely on immigrant and mixed status families.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber said during the press conference that President Richard Nixon was working on a guaranteed basic income program in the early 1970s but failed to implement it before he left office in 1973. Webber said that civil rights leaders and elected national figures were calling for a guaranteed basic income in the 1960s.

“There’s an old saying which applies to where we are today: ‘There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,’” Webber said.

Las Cruces City Councilor Johanna Bencomo said the social welfare programs that started under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s are “outdated and patronizing and exclusive.”

“They’re leaving out millions of families because they make just a few dollars too much or because of their immigration status,” she said.

Becomo said “the most powerful piece for me” is that the study will focus solely on undocumented and mixed status families in New Mexico.

“They have been excluded from most safety net programs,” she said. 

Bencomo said the poverty rate in Las Cruces is above 30 percent. She said the City of Las Cruces is considering using some of its federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to implement a city-wide guaranteed basic income program but the decision on that is still pending.

Both Webber and Bencomo are proponents of GBI programs in Santa Fe and Las Cruces respectively.

The New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group is a coalition that formed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has published studies on the state of Hispanic and Latino families in New Mexico over the last two years, including recently, which indicates that Hispanic and Latino families have struggled to bounce back financially from the pandemic. 

Related: Poll shows Hispanic families hit hard by pandemic

Of the 330 families, 221 will be selected from urban areas and 109 from rural locations. A qualified applicant will have at least one minor child or an adult dependent who lives with a disability and the families must have one or more members who are undocumented.