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US Covid-19 Relief Should Protect Immigrants

Earlier Relief Package Excluded Many Vulnerable Families

Workers line up to enter the Tyson Foods port processing plant in Logansport, Indiana, May 7, 2020. © 2020 AP Photo/Michael Conroy

This week, United States lawmakers are considering the next Covid-19 relief package. The US has now surpassed four million positive cases of the novel coronavirus, while 1.4 million more workers filed for unemployment insurance just last week. Congress should enact a relief bill that protects all those affected, including immigrants, who are among the most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Covid-19 relief bills should assist immigrant families – even if some of their members are unauthorized – whose rights to adequate housing, food, health, and more are increasingly at risk.

As of 2018, there were over 44 million foreign-born people living in the US, including eight million unauthorized workers and 12.6 million children (including US citizens) living with at least one noncitizen in their household. Effective public health and economic safety requires the protection of all community members regardless of immigration status. Many are among the nearly 60 million Latinos in the US, one of the largest nonwhite groups of voters in 2020, who were already facing persistent income inequality and disparities in wealth before being hit hard by the pandemic.

Immigrants are especially vulnerable in this pandemic because many are in jobs on the front lines. Many essential workers, including doctors, nurses and medical staff, maintenance workers, delivery persons, farmworkers, foodservice staff, meat processing workers, and street vendors, are immigrants.

Additionally, fear of the US government’s harsh immigration enforcement measures may keep immigrant families from seeking financial relief or medical care.

The CARES Act relief package enacted in March does not provide enough access to assistance, testing, and treatment for immigrant community members. It also requires that recipients of relief funds for basic necessities have a social security number. This has excluded many from the benefits, including US citizens married to immigrants filing taxes without a social security number and US citizen children, as well as millions of undocumented persons, many of whom pay taxes.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate have introduced the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act, a federal relief bill that would prohibit discrimination based on immigration status in accessing relief funds. The House of Representatives also recently passed the HEROES Act, which includes several provisions that protect immigrants

 

Inclusion without discrimination protects lives, supports the economy, and, simply, is the right course for the US government to take to protect the rights of all community members.

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