Center for American Progress

RELEASE: A Phase 4 Coronavirus Relief Bill Must Include Protections for Undocumented Immigrants
Press Release

RELEASE: A Phase 4 Coronavirus Relief Bill Must Include Protections for Undocumented Immigrants

Washington, D.C. — A new Center for American Progress analysis looks at the importance of protecting the 10.6 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States during the coronavirus crisis. Undocumented immigrants are an important part of U.S. society and the U.S. economy. The majority of them have lived in the United States for more than a decade, and collectively they contribute tens of billions of dollars annually in taxes, funding critical programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Undocumented workers also disproportionately work in fields that are now considered essential such as health care and agriculture.

Despite their many contributions, undocumented immigrants are largely excluded from benefiting from Congress’s first three coronavirus relief packages. Undocumented taxpayers and their families, including their American-citizen children, will not be eligible for the direct payments of $1,200 for single filers and $500 for children under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. They also don’t have adequate access to medical treatment, including COVID-19 testing, or unemployment insurance—and many live with the fear of deportation.

In “A Phase 4 Coronavirus Relief Bill Must Include Protections for Undocumented Immigrants,” Ryan Zamarripa, associate director of Economic Policy, offers the following recommendations for Congress to enact in its next coronavirus relief package in order to both protect this vital sector of the U.S. population and mitigate the national public health and economic crisis:

  • All people residing in the United States should have access to COVID-19 testing and treatment regardless of immigration status. Even President Donald Trump acknowledged that this is an essential public health measure.
  • Mixed-status families and undocumented immigrants should have access to the emergency economic support. It is in the economy’s best interest that all income-eligible residents receive direct stimulus payments from the federal government to both help people make ends meet and inject money into the economy. The CARES Act’s efficacy is only blunted when certain segments of the economy are excluded from its direct payment provisions.
  • Everyone who files tax returns, regardless of immigration status, should be extended access to unemployment benefits, including unemployment insurance and paid family leave for COVID-19-related illness.
  • Congress must ensure that immigrant workers are not unnecessarily removed from the workforce at this critical moment. Congress should automatically extend work permits due to expire in 2020 and urge the administration to allow foreign-born health professionals to fully use their training.
  • Congress should make sure that the fear of immigration enforcement does not stand in the way of accessing health care and other necessary services. It should urge the executive branch to not conduct immigration enforcement activities near health care sites and formally suspend the public charge rule.

“Undocumented workers have long been essential to keeping the United States running, but now more than ever they have put themselves and their families’ health at risk by working to keep America fed and cared for during the most serious public health crisis in a century. Despite this, Congress has not fully included them in its first three coronavirus relief packages,” said Zamarripa. “In its fourth package, Congress needs to recognize that protecting undocumented immigrants is not only morally imperative but a critical economic and public health priority as well. The public health and economic crises are severely harming everyone living in the United States, and the country will not recuperate from either crisis unless everyone is included in the recovery.”

Read the column: “A Phase 4 Coronavirus Relief Bill Must Include Protections for Undocumented Immigrants” by Ryan Zamarripa.

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at jcusick@americanprogress.org.

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To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.