Jackie Vimo has spent the better part of three decades fighting for the rights of immigrants, while working for the National Immigration Law Center. Her fight hasn’t changed during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know that immigrants are disproportionately working as nurses and in the medical field," Vimo said. "They’re delivering food, they’re farm workers, they’re preparing food, doing maintenance and cleaning. And yet, the CARES Act really cut them out of both relief and health care efforts."
The federal government passed a $2 trillion relief bill called the CARES Act in March. But if you don’t have a Social Security number, the relief won't be coming to you.
“The CARES Act cut out millions of people, either because they don’t have a Social Security number or they’re married to someone who doesn’t have a Social Security number,” said Vimo.
In addition to the $1,200 stimulus check for Americans making up to $75,000 a year for individuals, it requires insurance companies to cover testing for COVID-19, and it includes a massive expansion of unemployment benefits.
According to Vimo, almost all immigrants will be boxed out from those benefits.
“It doesn’t make sense from a public health perspective," she said. "It doesn’t make sense from an economic point of view. It’s deeply unfair, given that this is a benefit for people who only pay taxes, and so why should someone who works and pays taxes be treated differently?"
But not everyone feels the same way, like US Senator Kevin Cramer from North Dakota.
“We’re spending a lot more money than we have right now in an economy who’s recovery is certain, but the timeline is not," Sen. Cramer said. "So, I think we have to take care of American citizens first."
Cramer wants to take care of full citizens and the economy first, then look at immigrants who pay taxes.
“Now, if you have documented workers, contributing in the form of taxes, certainly that would be the next priority,” said Cramer.
According to Vimo, immigrants contribute billions in taxes.
“In 2015 alone, which is the last year we have data, ITIN filers paid almost $24 billion in federal taxes," Vimo said. "Immigrants pay state and local taxes, estimated almost $12 billion a year."
Immigrants pay taxes on pretty much everything citizens do.
“They pay sales tax, property taxes, gas taxes I don’t get to go to the corner store and buy a sandwich and say, 'I’ll have a sandwich, but oh, by the way I’m undocumented. Please don’t charge me the sales tax,'” said Vimo.
But they won’t be getting a check from the government. At least not this time around.
Vimo and other immigrant advocates hope the next round of COVID-19 stimulus bills include provisions for immigrants and their families.
“We are looking for a bill that would allow states to use Medicaid dollars to ensure treatment for everyone," Vimo said. "That would eliminate needless Social Security requirements for taxpayers to receive the economic impact payments and address this epidemic and address it to everyone.”