In response to the financial effects of COVID-19, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act at the end of March. This act is a $2 trillion relief package for individuals, families, and businesses of all sizes.
The most direct form of relief is the stimulus check, which is up to $1,200 per adult individual and $500 per dependent child.
Not everyone will receive these checks, however. To be eligible, you must have a Social Security number. If you are an undocumented immigrant, you may use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to pay taxes because you don’t have a Social Security number. If that is the case, you will not receive a stimulus check—even if you’re paying taxes.
What’s worse is that families may not be eligible for stimulus checks if even one member of the household has an ITIN instead of an SSN.
This status-based discrimination hits hard, particularly because a significant portion of undocumented immigrants work in the food industry and have been laid off. Others have chosen to stay home from work because they don’t want to expose their children to the virus.
Researchers estimate that roughly 10.7 million immigrants are undocumented in the U.S., but they are all ineligible for both federal benefits and, because they lack work authorization, unemployment insurance. Nearly 4.8% of the American workforce is comprised of unauthorized workers—almost 8 million people.
Finding Silver Linings
Advocacy groups throughout the country are protesting this discrimination. Many states are pushing the federal government to provide all taxpayers with relief—not just those with SSNs.
While we wait and hope for improved legislation, many have taken matters into their own hands. Some state governments, for example, have implemented their own programs to support undocumented immigrants. Advocacy groups have compiled resources to help undocumented immigrants and mixed-status families obtain relief.
Even USCIS has urged all individuals, regardless of status, to seek treatment, preventative care, and testing for COVID-19. In a recent alert, USCIS explains that officers will not consider this treatment for purposes of the public charge grounds of inadmissibility, even if the applicant used public benefits to pay for it.
If you or someone you know are undocumented, help may be on the way. We urge you to look into as many resources as possible and reach out to us for immediate support.
Let Us Help You Find the Resources You Need
At the Law Offices of James A. Welcome, we respect and support all immigrants—no matter their history nor current status. If you are struggling legally or financially because of COVID-19, we are fully prepared to help you obtain the relief you need. Whether you need legal counsel and representation, a comprehensive breakdown of emergency legislation, or information about staying safe during the pandemic, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.