CORONAVIRUS

Undocumented Workers Won't Get Stimulus Checks — Again

Millions of essential workers who are undocumented get no money from Congress’ COVID-19 bill, even as they work on the front lines in grocery stores, farm work and more.

Congress has once again left undocumented immigrants out of its COVID-19 stimulus checks, cutting out millions of essential workers and their U.S. citizen children from the much-needed funds. 

In the $900 billion coronavirus relief package Congress has finally agreed on, Americans are set to receive $600 stimulus checks per individual, including adults and children, for those who made less than $75,000 in 2019, or less than $150,000 for couples in a household. 

But, just as was the case in the first COVID-19 relief deal in the spring, the legislation excludes immigrants who are “nonresident aliens” — or undocumented immigrants — from getting checks. 

Unlike the last package, Congress will allow Americans who are married to undocumented people to receive stimulus checks this time around. However, the U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrants will get nothing.  

“For Black, Latinx and [Asian American and Pacific Islander] families, especially those who may be undocumented and have been hit hard by the virus and the recession, this package is not enough,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. 

Poo noted that undocumented domestic workershouse cleaners, child care and home care workers — “put their lives on the line to keep us safe, yet continue to be denied government relief.”

Undocumented immigrants are among those hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout. Undocumented workers are overrepresented in fields that have seen massive layoffs due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the restaurant and hotel industries. 

They also make up significant portions of the frontline workers deemed “essential” — from grocery store and farm workers to building cleaners — who are still going to work, risking their lives in a pandemic while millions of Americans stay home.

Agricultural workers in carrot fields at a farm near Arvin, California on April 3.
Agricultural workers in carrot fields at a farm near Arvin, California on April 3.

About three-quarters of undocumented people in the U.S. are Latinx, and nearly 60% of Latinx people in May said someone in their household had taken a pay cut or lost a job because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Latinx and Black people are also around four times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 as white people, and nearly three times as likely to die, per the CDC.

Meanwhile, immigrants who filed taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) — because they aren’t eligible for a social security number — contributed to government funds used to pay for this coronavirus relief bill, all while being cut out of stimulus checks. In 2015, 4.4 million people, largely immigrants, paid $23.6 billion in taxes using an ITIN, per the American Immigration Council.

And of over 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., over 3 million live with at least one U.S. citizen child, per a Migration Policy Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

“Immigrant families have been on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Hannah Matthews, deputy executive director and expert on immigrant families at the nonpartisan Center for Law and Social Policy. 

While Matthews cheered the inclusion of “mixed-status” couples in this round of congressional relief, she slammed the exclusion of American kids of undocumented parents as “morally wrong.”