July 31, 2020

Hirono, Murray, and Colleagues to McConnell: Immigrants Are Essential and Deserve Support in Coronavirus Relief Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) led a letter with 25 of their colleagues urging Majority Leader McConnell to support tax-paying immigrant families who have Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN) by ensuring they have access to economic relief payments provided in the CARES Act and any future coronavirus relief package.  

An estimated 20 million immigrants work in essential industries. These immigrants, particularly undocumented workers, comprise a disproportionate share of frontline workers. Many of these immigrant workers and their families face additional vulnerabilities during this public health and economic crisis, like a lack of health insurance coverage and lower incomes.

“Therefore, it is critical that Congress ensures that immigrants who pay taxes, including frontline workers, are able to access the vital coronavirus economic relief measure in the CARES Act that was intended to help ensure that families are able to put food on their tables and keep a roof over their heads. As immigrant workers in hospitals, meat processing plants, farms, grocery stores, and elsewhere endure the hardships of this pandemic to provide for our most basic needs, we ask that you extend the coronavirus cash assistance Congress provided to include immigrant families who file taxes with an ITIN,” the Senators wrote.

The Senators continued, “No one should be denied critical economic relief benefits they would otherwise be entitled to simply because they are part of a mixed-status family. 

In addition to Senators Hirono and Murray, the letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

The letter can be found here or below:

Dear Majority Leader McConnell:

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to deepen the public health and economic crises in our country, we urge you to ensure that tax-paying immigrants who have Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN) are able to access the vital economic relief assistance provided in the CARES Act and any future coronavirus relief legislation. Immigrants are disproportionately working in essential jobs to keep Americans healthy, safe, fed, and poised for economic recovery – often at great risk to their own lives and health. Excluding immigrant families, many of which include U.S. citizen children and spouses, from the federal government’s economic disaster relief response will impair our Nation’s ability to not only restore our economy but also to maintain critical essential services during the pandemic.

We have seen millions of immigrants risking their health during the pandemic to protect the health and safety of other Americans, including as health care workers, farmworkers, grocery store clerks, and other essential, frontline workers. According to the Center for Migration Studies, there are 19.8 million immigrants who are “essential” workers, and immigrants, particularly undocumented workers, make up a disproportionate share of these workers who are on the front lines of the pandemic. More than 130,000 Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders and 202,500 DACA recipients are providing essential services during the pandemic that include ensuring that food is still being grown, packaged, and delivered to grocery stores and serving as much-needed health care workers in a severely-strained medical system. In the health care industry, nearly 1.7 million workers are immigrants, who comprise a disproportionate share of nurses, home health aides, and health care facility workers.   

Moreover, many of these indispensable immigrant workers also face additional vulnerabilities such as low incomes and lack of health insurance coverage. Therefore, it is critical that Congress ensures that immigrants who pay taxes, including frontline workers, are able to access the vital coronavirus economic relief measure in the CARES Act that was intended to help ensure that families are able to put food on their tables and keep a roof over their heads. 

As immigrant workers in hospitals, meat processing plants, farms, grocery stores, and elsewhere endure the hardships of this pandemic to provide for our most basic needs, we ask that you extend the coronavirus cash assistance Congress provided to include immigrant families who file taxes with an ITIN. One way to address this issue would be to include the relevant provisions in the Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act (S.3609), and the House-passed HEROES Act (H.R.6800). According to the IRS, 4.4 million people paid $23.6 billion in total taxes using an ITIN, based on data from 2015. 

At the very least, Congress should provide this crucial coronavirus cash assistance to spouses and children in mixed-status immigrant families. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 3.5 million children, many of whom are U.S. citizens, live in households with at least one ITIN filer. No one should be denied critical economic relief benefits they would otherwise be entitled to simply because they are part of a mixed-status family. 

As Congress works to meet the urgent needs of our country in the face of a devastating public health emergency and an economic crisis, we strongly urge you to ensure that immigrant workers and taxpayers have access to vital cash assistance relief in the upcoming coronavirus relief legislation. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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