Democrats face pressure from immigration activists to provide pandemic relief checks to millions of immigrants who are illegally residing in the United States but pay taxes.
Behind the scenes, left-leaning advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations are pushing to get $1,400 checks, including in major pandemic relief legislation not only for the 2.2 million U.S. citizen children who were excluded from the two previous checks but 9.3 million adults who pay billions of dollars in federal taxes.
Altogether, the measure could cost the federal government $13 billion.
The National Immigration Law Center, Church World Services, and Service Employees International Union are leading efforts to whip Senate Democrats into adding language for the checks into the pandemic relief legislative package.
The move is not expected to succeed but could complicate negotiations within the Democratic Party in the coming weeks.
“We should be working to include MORE Americans in relief and recovery efforts rather than creating barriers to relief that will leave immigrant workers who are at the frontline fighting the pandemic at risk of hunger and homelessness and making it impossible for them to shelter in place,” the NILC said in talking points distributed to allies and obtained by the Washington Examiner.
“We cannot recover from the COVID pandemic if all of us are not included in relief.”
More than 14.4 million immigrants here illegally were excluded from the $1,200 CARES Act payments last spring, including 9.3 million adults who have individual taxpayer identification numbers, 1.4 million adults who have Social Security numbers but filed their taxes with someone who is not a citizen, such as a spouse, and 3.7 million children who have one or more noncitizen parents. In December, lawmakers included payments to 2.9 million immigrants, divided between adults who have Social Security numbers and children.
President Joe Biden’s proposal did not include checks for millions who use ITINs to pay taxes. Anyone in the U.S. who does not have lawful status, including but not limited to those here illegally, can apply for an ITIN, which provides them with a government document that can help recipients open a bank account or get a driver’s license.
Immigrant advocates are fighting for full coverage, though the plan does not include payments to anyone who is outside these three categories.
Internal talking points cite that 80% of undocumented workers are working jobs deemed “essential” by the Department of Homeland Security yet have received nothing from the government.
“Black and Latino communities experienced drastically higher rates of food insecurity as a result of the economic crisis provoked by the pandemic — with rates of food insecurity for Black and Latino communities hovering at around 30% in 2020, about 10% higher than white Americans,” according to a document circulated to other groups.
The NILC and CWS have also called supporters and partner organizations to “hold accountable” the eight Democrats who voted last week in support of an amendment by Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, that would bar checks for all illegal immigrants.
Young later said that his proposal would not exclude children from mixed legal status families from getting checks.
CWS, the NILC, SEIU, America’s Voice, and coalition group We Are Home declined or did not respond to requests for comment.
Anna Giaritelli is the homeland security reporter for the Washington Examiner.