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Stimulus Bill is a Step Forward that Still Fails Immigrant Families

The new COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress was desperately needed and is more inclusive than the CARES Act, but still fails American children who are suffering the most.

By Sarah Cartagena, Immigration Analyst, and Noreen Sugrue, Director of Research

Prayers and pleads were partially answered this week as Congress passed a much-awaited and urgently needed COVID-19 relief bill, exactly nine months after the passing of the previous relief bill, the CARES Act. During these nine months, thousands of Illinois families suffered infection and death from COVID while desperate for food security and employment. Thousands more faced fear of eviction as rent and bills went unpaid due to unemployment and loss of income.

Although this relief package is long overdue and provides modest immediate assistance to many families (namely, direct survival payments of $600), it falls short of sufficiently addressing the current health and economic devastation of the nation. One of these shortcomings is the bill's limited stimulus relief to mixed-status families.  

Unlike the CARES stimulus relief, the new COVID-19 relief bill is slightly more inclusive. It recognizes certain mixed-status families for the upcoming $600 survival payments and honors retroactive payments of the CARES’ stimulus checks, but only for families where one spouse has a valid social security number. Unfortunately, this relief does not extend to U.S. citizen children who don't have a parent with a valid social security number.  

This is a blow for many hardworking, taxpaying immigrant families. It is estimated that three out four undocumented workers are employed in essential occupations, transporting, building, delivering, cooking, cleaning, and battling the pandemic on the front lines. Additionally, it is estimated that in 2019, undocumented households paid $79.7 billion dollars in federal taxes. If Congress had provided $600 to each of the approximately 11 million undocumented workers and their U.S. citizen children, that would have only been 8 percent of what they paid in federal taxes in 2019. 

Along with these stimulus check shortcomings, this COVID-19 relief bill and omnibus spending bill fails to ensure vaccines, testing, and treatment for all immigrants and, regrettably, provides an exorbitant amount of funding for the border wall.