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 Trump 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 McConnell’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 Pelosi (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 Correa (D-Calif.).

The letter was also signed by Democratic Reps. Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), Darren Soto (Fla.), Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), Juan Vargas (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.

Tags Adriano Espaillat Darren Soto Donald Trump Juan Vargas Lou Correa Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Salud Carbajal

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