Activists have criticized the historic $2 trillion stimulus bill recently passed by Congress for failing to give money to illegal immigrants.
In general, illegal immigrants are not allowed to partake in federal benefits. However, activists argue that excluding that demographic from the stimulus package will put people’s health at risk by forcing illegal immigrants to work in jobs exposing them to a possible COVID-19 infection.
Here’s how CNN framed the situation:
Unauthorized workers make up about 5% of the US labor force – around 7.6 million people, according to the latest estimates from the Pew Research Center.
Advocates argue the coronavirus crisis that’s devastated global markets, overwhelmed hospitals and left millions without jobs is having an outsized impact on undocumented workers. Many had service-sector jobs that were decimated by the pandemic. Those who remain employed largely don’t have the option of working from home, and are risking their safety to keep supply chains going.
S.G. Sarmiento, campaign director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said that Americans largely owe their food supply chains to illegal immigrants working the farms.
“It’s undocumented workers that are still in the fields, still in the factories, still the janitors in the buildings, still looking for work as day laborers,” Sarmiento said. “From a public health perspective, you cannot have an effective national response to a pandemic that excludes enormous segments of the population. That’s both illogical and immoral.”
Tyler Moran, executive director of the Immigration Hub, also criticized the stimulus package for not allowing illegal immigrants to access more testing and emergency medical care in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs.
“The package does not provide enough access to testing and treatment. … We just think this is totally irresponsible and dangerous and infuriating,” said Moran. “Everyone’s health literally depends on the health of your neighbor. And guess what? Everyone has an immigrant neighbor.”
On Friday, Boston Globe reported that illegal immigrants have been pushed out of work due to the pandemic and will have no financial safety net if the stimulus package fails to address them.
“They are the hourly employees who work as cooks and dishwashers, cleaners and clerks,” wrote the publication. “They are among the more than 250,000 unauthorized immigrants in Massachusetts who account for about 5 percent of the labor force. These immigrants typically pay taxes but don’t qualify for stimulus checks or unemployment benefits, which are reserved for US citizens and those legally authorized to work in the US.”
Prior to the stimulus passing Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) proposed sending a $2,000 to all people in America regardless of citizenship. The counterarguments against giving stimulus money to illegal immigrants mainly stress that American citizens, which includes people of all races, should come first.
“With one of the worst jobless reports in quite a few years, the primary focus right now should be on American workers and lawful immigrants,” Chris Chmielenski, deputy director of Numbers USA, told CNN. “We should make sure that those people are taken care of first.”
Chmielenski noted that the medical care providers who receive funding will be able to treat and test patients regardless of their citizenship.
“Our top priority has to be helping Americans and helping legal permanent residents who are most affected by the crisis both from a health perspective and economic perspective,” he added.