President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) on Friday, March 27. The $2 trillion stimulus package goes a long way to improve our response to the COVID-19 outbreak. But it fails to deliver for millions of immigrants across the country, including first responders who are on the front lines fighting against the virus.
Here’s what you should know about who is excluded from the CARES Act:
Many Immigrant Families Won’t Receive Direct Payments
Millions of immigrant families across the United States will not benefit from the $2 trillion in COVID-19 relief money contained in the package. It provides direct payments on a sliding scale of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, depending on income and immigration status.
Only those with a Social Security number who have a green card or are “resident aliens” will qualify. This includes people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). But many people who meet these prerequisites will still be disqualified from receiving cash payments if they have a spouse or child who does not have a valid Social Security number.
The impact will be significant. Many mixed status families will be disqualified from receiving payments from the government. They can be excluded even if the head of household has status in the United States and is paying taxes.
Recent estimates indicate that 16.7 million people live with at least one unauthorized family member. This includes approximately 5.1 million U.S. citizen children under the age of 18.
While most unauthorized immigrants don’t have valid Social Security numbers, many still pay federal, state, and local income taxes by using an Individual Tax Identifying Number.
An estimated 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children will be disqualified from direct payments even though they regularly file their taxes and contribute to the tax base.
Many Immigrants Are Excluded from Testing and Treatment Options
The CARES Act includes significant increases in funding for COVID-19 testing and treatment. This includes over $1 billion funding for community health centers. Another $100 billion in grants will go toward hospitals and unreimbursed expenses for Medicaid.
Medicaid is a federally funded state-run program that offers health coverage to millions of low-income Americans. Many people will have to rely on it for COVID-19 testing and treatment. The enrollment requirements are complex. Very few immigrants qualify under current law.
Unfortunately, the package failed to expand the eligibility criteria. This will continue to disqualify millions of immigrants—including many green card holders, all DACA and TPS beneficiaries, and all unauthorized immigrants—from necessary care. This runs contrary to the advice of public health experts.
Immigrants across the United States will, however, be able to use their local community health centers for some treatment options.
The Relief Package’s Effect on Immigration Enforcement
While the Trump administration recently requested over $800 million in additional funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the CARES Act does not contain any additional dollars for immigration enforcement.
Critically, the package does limit the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to transfer and reprogram other funding in the package for immigration enforcement.
It also prevents the Department of Defense from transferring funds into the “Drug Interdiction and Counter-Drug Activities” account. This is the account that the administration has used to fund much of the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Congress included this language to prevent the president from reallocating COVID-19 response dollars for that purpose.
We must do everything possible to keep everyone safe regardless of immigration status. Our collective response should make it possible for everyone in the United States to obtain the testing and treatment necessary to reduce the impact and further spread of COVID-19.
Disqualifying entire households from receiving direct cash payments when a single family member lacks immigration status is shortsighted and discriminatory. The virus does not discriminate based on immigration status. Our country’s response should take a similar approach.
Excluding millions of people—many of whom are our first responders—will be disastrous. It will also negatively impact our economy and public health.
The next COVID-19 package considered by Congress should provide a greater level of support. Everyone, including immigrants, need testing, treatment, and unemployment assistance.
FILED UNDER: covid-19