Over 3 million people have filed for unemployment in the midst of the coronavirus public health crisis. That breathtaking number, however, doesn’t include undocumented immigrants who work as housekeepers and nannies and have also lost their livelihoods after being dismissed by their bosses. “Unlike their employers, undocumented workers cannot collect unemployment or benefit from a government bailout,” The New York Times reports.
Some are being laid off without any cushion from employers after having worked in their homes for years. “On the LA Nanny Network, a Facebook group, the fallout from the virus has been a hot topic,” The Times continued. “Last week, a nanny posted that her employer had dismissed her. In the comments, other nannies chimed in: ‘I got laid off too.’ ‘They laid me off with zero money.’ ‘Six years with the same family … they told me not to come and they won’t pay me.’”
These are workers just as worthy as anyone else, yet Senate-proposed relief “does not include all taxpayers,” World Relief leader Tim Breene wrote on CNN. “Those who file their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number have been left out, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Omitting these taxpayers will exclude many of the American taxpayers who are most vulnerable in the current crisis: undocumented immigrants.”
Undocumented immigrants should be in the final passed legislation—not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the federal government certainly takes their money without any complaints. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants pay nearly $12 billion in state and local taxes annually, and have pumped $100 billion into the Social Security Fund over a decade, which is money they’ll never see again unless they can adjust their immigration status.
Among the other domestic workers profiled by the Times is Mayra Brito, who was let go from two families—and without pay. “I understand their reasons,” she told the Times, “But what I don’t understand is why they didn’t say, ‘We’re going to pay you at least half while you’re at home because we’re not letting you work.’” To add some insult to injury, “She has since fielded requests from one of the families to do video calls because their children miss her. The parents did not offer to compensate her for the calls.”
As Beene noted, undocumented communities are excluded from relief, even as this crisis is set to hit them particularly hard. “These unauthorized immigrants are concentrated in the industries likely to be most immediately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic,” he wrote, including hotel housekeepers, restaurant dishwashers, and servers. “The women and men who clean hotel rooms are either being laid off or are having their hours dramatically reduced … They need economic relief urgently.”
It hasn’t been all horror stories among employers, of course. “Julie Lynn, a film producer in Los Angeles, said she was sending her nanny of 15 years checks ‘as if she was here working with us,’” the Times continued. “’I honestly don’t know how we could, in good conscience, do anything else,’ she said.” And that’s the way it should be—if you employ a domestic worker, please keep paying them for as long as you can. From caring for kids and elders to keeping homes running, it’s often said that domestic work makes all other work possible. It’s long past time that we all honor that, especially during this difficult time.