Leading Democrats from both chambers of Congress have introduced legislation ensuring that critical relief and protections from previous coronavirus packages are extended to immigrant families, including ensuring communities can access COVID-19 treatment, ensuring families can access that treatment without fear of federal immigration enforcement, and extending financial support to many working families shut out of economic relief.
“As coronavirus has upended all our lives, we in Congress have rushed to provide the necessary relief to help our whole economy survive this crisis,” Rep. Judy Chu, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said in a statement. “But you cannot do that by excluding entire segments of the population.”
The Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, co-introduced by Mazie Hirono and Kamala Harris in the Senate and Raul Grijalva, Lou Correa, and Chu in the House, would “help ensure that all communities are able to access COVID-19 testing and treatment, and other relief services provided in coronavirus relief legislation. It would provide dedicated funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct public outreach in multiple languages to hard-to-reach populations to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to COVID-19 relief measures and critical public health information.”
Just as importantly, the legislation would ensure working families who have paid their taxes using an Individual Tax Identification Number that the IRS issues to many undocumented workers would no longer be excluded from cash relief. As things currently stand, “only immigrants who have Social Security numbers can receive those checks,” Vox’s Nicole Narea reported, shutting out undocumented workers like Ingrid, a housekeeper in Washington, D.C.
"The last three weeks have been horrendous. I have suffered a lot because this has been a really difficult time," she said according to Newsweek. Like many other housekeepers, she’s seen her clients cancel, but because she lacks legal status, she won’t be seeing a check in her mail from the government to supplement her income. "People need to understand that we are also part of this community," she continued. "We also have families and children."
Also excluded are undocumented farmworkers, who the federal government says are important enough that they’re deemed “essential” during this pandemic (important note: farmworkers have always been essential), but are also shut out of this relief. So not only are undocumented workers still making sure fruits and vegetables are getting to our tables—they’re doing so at a risk to their own health without any fallbacks should they get sick.
“I was appalled to learn hardworking, taxpaying immigrants were left out of the $2 trillion CARES Act,” Rep. Correa said in the statement. “These taxpayers work in critical sectors of our economy, like agriculture, and contribute greatly to our country. While many of us sit at home, these hardworking immigrants are still at work in our hospitals, our fields, and countless other industries … by casing out immigrants, we are placing some of our most vulnerable residents in grave danger. Every individual taxpayer, irrespective of citizenship status, needs government assistance now.”
The legislation, cosponsored by Sens. Cory Booker, Ed Markey, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Richard Blumenthal, Jeff Merkley, and Robert Menendez, has received broad support from nearly a dozen organizations so far, including AFL-CIO, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, United We Dream, and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the latter of which said the bill “acknowledges the role of immigrants as protagonists in our recovery from this global catastrophe.”
“Immigrants are on the frontlines confronting this public health crisis as workers in the health care sector and as the indispensable people who harvest and prepare our food, deliver our groceries, and care for our loved ones,” NILC executive director Marielena Hincapié said in a statement. “If we truly want to win this fight against a pandemic that doesn’t discriminate based on a person’s wealth, race, or place of birth, we need Congress to pass policies that ensure immigrants are part of the solution and also receive the health care and economic support everyone needs to get through this crisis.”