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Activists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package

Activists, analysts demand Congress consider immigrants in coronavirus package

Activists are pushing for Congress to consider some protections for immigrants in its coronavirus relief package, including examining whether to provide some kind of economic stimulus and whether to provide testing.

These activists say immigrants, including the undocumented, should benefit from the relief measures to avoid negative cascading effects on national health care and the economy.

“Barring [immigrants] from access to testing, medical services, and economic stimulus benefits would have devastating consequences to the public and financial health of our country,” said Kerri Talbot, the director of federal advocacy at Immigration Hub.

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For the second time in as many days, the Senate on Monday failed to advance a coronavirus stimulus package that could cost nearly $2 trillion over Democratic objections that $500 million or so would be doled out to corporations with potentially little oversight.

The package is considering sending checks of $1,200 to Americans under a certain threshold as well as other measures. However, according to activists the bill does not specify which immigrants would be eligible for benefits under the stimulus, if any. 

Theresa Cardinal Brown, director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, said immigrants, especially undocumented ones, are likely to be most impacted economically.
 
"Certainly, immigrants are going to bear the brunt of this," Brown said.

"They're working disproportionately in a lot of the hourly wage jobs that are going to be most impacted by the economic downturn. We're talking a lot of them are undocumented, and have never been eligible for most of the benefits that we're talking about," she added.

The activists argue that the nearly 50 million immigrants present in the country, and the up to 12 million undocumented ones, are a large enough population that their economic plight could be felt nationwide.

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There is also a push by activists for the package to directly address whether undocumented immigrants will be eligible for testing and treatment for coronavirus.

President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse passes voting rights and elections reform bill DEA places agent seen outside Capitol during riot on leave Georgia Gov. Kemp says he'd 'absolutely' back Trump as 2024 nominee MORE suggested on Sunday that testing should be available for immigrants, including the undocumented.

"The answer is yes, we will do those tests because I think in that case it's important," said Trump. "I think you could say illegal alien, you could say illegal immigrant, you could say whatever you want, use your definition of what you're talking about — we're all talking about the same thing."

"Yes, we will test that person," added Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGarland's AG nomination delayed by GOP roadblocks DOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Trump was unhinged and unchanged at CPAC MORE's (R-Ky.) office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The vacuum created by the bill's apparent lack of definition on benefits for immigrants is creating space for Democrats to push their own proposals for the House version of the stimulus bill, to be released by Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Democrats deals to bolster support for relief bill | Biden tries to keep Democrats together | Retailers fear a return of the mask wars Here's who Biden is now considering for budget chief Biden urges Democrats to advocate for rescue package MORE (D-Calif.).

Seven members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote to Pelosi Monday asking her to include permanent immigration protections for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program when negotiating with the administration.

"We must include language to provide these productive, taxpaying, law-abiding citizens a permanent equitable solution, once and for all. We all know these young people are Americans in every sense except on paper. We cannot allow these young people to be sent back to a country they do not know and in which they may not have access to healthcare," wrote the members, led by Rep. Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaRep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19 An attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation FAA: No more warnings for unruly passengers on flights MORE (D-Calif.).

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Salud CarbajalSalud CarbajalCapitol riots spark fear of Trump's military powers in final days House Democrats push Biden's Pentagon pick on civilian control of military GOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (Calif.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers remember actress Cicely Tyson Over 40 lawmakers sign letter urging Merrick Garland to prioritize abolishing death penalty The Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history MORE (N.Y.), Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoDemocrats offer bill on Puerto Rico statehood Republican rips GOP lawmakers for voting by proxy from CPAC Puerto Rico governor: Congress 'morally obligated' to act on statehood vote MORE (Fla.), Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), Juan VargasJuan C. VargasHispanic Caucus asks for Department of Labor meeting on COVID in meatpacking plants Hispanic Caucus requests meeting with private detention center CEOs Hispanic Caucus asks Trump to rescind invitation to Mexican president MORE (Calif.) and Jesús García (Ill.).

But Republicans have already been critical of Democrats in the Senate for adding more provisions to a bill they see as urgent.

Correa dismissed the notion that a debate on DACA could further slow down the bill, adding that Republicans should be put in a position to answer whether they support an immigration measure that's proven overwhelmingly popular.

"There's only one way to answer the question, and that's to ask the question," he said.