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Many immigrants left out of pandemic aid acts

By Masao Suzuki

San José, CA – Many immigrants won’t be able to get help from the bipartisan COVID-19 pandemic aid bills passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. More than 4 million undocumented immigrants who are paying taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, will not qualify for the $1200 per person benefit because they have no Social Security number. Another 5 million American citizen children with undocumented parents also will not get the $500 per child benefit.

Legal immigrants and naturalized citizens tend to have lower incomes than native-born Americans. People whose income is low enough that they don’t have to file personal income taxes also will see their checks delayed and may be overlooked entirely, which will hit immigrants especially hard. More elderly immigrants live with their children and are dependent on them than with the native-born. They also will be left out, as the program only covers dependent children, not adults.

DACA recipients with work authorization can get Social Security, and will qualify for the $1200 benefit as long as they are not considered dependents of their parents. But many who are attending college are dependents and would not qualify.

The undocumented and many legal immigrants are most likely not to have health insurance provided by their job. Nor are they eligible of Medicaid, limiting their choice of testing to community clinics that are already straining to provide medical care day to day. Uninsured immigrants would also not get any help in paying the costs of COVID-19 treatment, which will keep many from seeking medical help. This will lead to more deaths and more infections.

So far the Border Patrol and ICE are not releasing undocumented immigrants and refugees from the large camps and prisons where they are held. These detention centers, like prisons, cannot practice social distancing and already have poor health care. The Trump administration is putting their lives at risk to further their anti-immigrant agenda.

These holes in the new COVID-19 acts need to plugged by Congress. ICE and the Border Patrol have to release all the immigrants and refugees being held in detention centers, whose only crime is to seek a safer and more secure life for themselves and their children. Those immigrants who do some of the hardest work who have lost their jobs, and others who still have jobs but whose health and lives are at risk working in hospitals and elder care facilities need to have their livelihood and health taken care of.

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