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.


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.


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 John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump 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 McConnellTop aide: Biden expected to visit Georgia in push to boost Ossoff, Warnock Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' 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 PelosiUS economy hurtles toward 'COVID cliff' with programs set to expire Democrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump Divided citizenry and government — a call to action for common ground 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 CorreaCriminalization that never should have been: Cannabis Man arrested, charged with threatening to attack Muslims in Germany Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California MORE (D-Calif.).

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Salud CarbajalSalud CarbajalGOP Rep. Dan Newhouse tests positive for COVID-19 Colorado Democrat Ed Perlmutter tests positive for coronavirus Bustos tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (Calif.), Adriano EspaillatAdriano de Jesus Espaillat CabralLawmakers call for small business aid at all levels of government The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy On the Money: Administration to ban TikTok, WeChat | House moves toward bill to avoid government shutdown | Coronavirus relief bills boosted GDP, CBO says MORE (N.Y.), Darren SotoDarren Michael SotoHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Radiation elevated at fracking sites, researchers find Hopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise 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.