On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that undocumented immigrants who currently live in California will be eligible to receive a special stimulus payment.
$500 and $1,000 payments to undocumented immigrants
Undocumented immigrants have not been eligible for most types of relief both federally and locally, including federal stimulus checks, CARES Act unemployment benefits, and federal PUA relief for independent contractors. Currently the main avenue of relief has been EDD unemployment insurance, which doesn’t ask about citizenship status, but also requires more hoops to go through than a normal applicant.
Under the special stimulus plan, a one-time payment of $500 per adult, with a max of $1,000 per household, will be paid from a special $125 million coronavirus fund. Only $75 million of that will come from state funds as $50 million comes from private donations from such organizations such as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Emerson Collective.
Newsom stressed during his announcement that undocumented immigrants have been suffering more than others during the crisis, and that their failure to pay rent or skip medical appointments would hurt the state and the public more. Newsom also said that many are currently essential workers and are currently helping the state continue to run during such a crisis, especially in food, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction sectors.
“We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians,” stated Governor Newsom on Wednesday. “And that’s why I’m proud as governor to be the very first state to announce a program for direct disaster assistance to those individuals.
I’m not here to suggest that $125 million is enough. But I am here to suggest it’s a good start, and I’m very proud it’s starting here in the state of California.”
Support from immigration groups and organizations
Immigration groups have applauded the move, with many noting the importance of illegal workers in California’s economy.
“One out of every ten workers in California is currently an undocumented immigrant,” noted immigration attorney Eva Colon. “They’re the ones out there planting, harvesting, trucking, and processing food. They’ve been helping keep medicine coming in, and dropping off packages and food so others don’t have to go out.”
“They also pay taxes, both state and local. And so far they’ve gotten little back compared to others despite them needing that extra money badly I heard from a lot of clients since March, and many are scared of being thrown onto the streets or being forced to move away. And if that happens now, food production will be disrupted by a significant degree in California. And that’s huge during a crisis like with COVID-19 happening now.”
“They’re people too, they paid taxes, and they need help. You have to be backwards to see otherwise in this situation. Many are basically begging for rent money right now.”
Labor organizations with undocumented immigrants also gave messages of support.
“Today’s announcement is a necessary first step to close the widening gap between immigrants and vital assistance that could mean the difference between life and death for millions of Californians,” said the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in a statement shortly after Newsom’s speech.
Opposing the special stimulus
Those who oppose illegal immigration have argued against California’s decision, citing that they are breaking the law and that they add a burden on coronavirus resources in many areas. Lawmakers such as state Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) came out against the payment on Thursday.
“Instead of meeting these urgent needs, Governor Newsom has chosen to irresponsibly pursue a left-wing path and unilaterally secured $125 million for undocumented immigrants,” said Senator Grove in a statement.
Others shared the same sentiment.
“We’re giving money to people for breaking the law,” said James Cooper, a former border minuteman who is now a private investigator who specializes in illegal immigration cases. “By definition, we shouldn’t reward those for breaking the law, but we continue to do that in California.”
“I’m not against giving it to people if they can prove they’re working on becoming a citizen. You know, if you can prove that you’re working on getting a green card or that you are going to take your citizenship test soon, then I think that is grounds for getting it.”
“But to give it to those not even trying, that is a blow to everyone else in the state whose families had to become naturalized and worked hard to get status.”
“The bottom line is that the money is going to people currently here against the law. It’s not right.”
Despite opposition, 150,000 undocumented immigrants are expected to receive the money through local non-profit organizations from the special stimulus. As of Thursday it is not known when the special stimulus money will be given out.
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