Immigrants Denied Access to Many State and Federal Benefits

The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has brought the United States—and much of the world—to a virtual standstill. California is under a ‘Stay-at-Home’ order—meaning all residents are required to shelter in place, except for essential activities. Many businesses are temporarily closed. An unfortunate consequence of the necessary public health measure is a sharp increase in unemployment.  

In the past two weeks alone, more than one million people have filed for unemployment in California—shattering all previous records. While the federal government passed a much needed economic support package (CARES Act) to offer additional unemployment benefits, there are huge gaps in its coverage. Undocumented immigrants are locked out of many basic state and federal programs.

They Work, They Pay Taxes, but They are Denied Equal Access to Support

Undocumented immigrants help form the foundation of our state’s economy. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) estimates that 1.75 million employees—approximately ten percent of the state’s workforce—are currently undocumented. In this time of unprecedented need, undocumented immigrants are being left behind. 

As reported by CalMatters, undocumented immigrants do not qualify “for unemployment insurance or the California Earned Income Tax Credit.” One of the most important provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) is the expansion of unemployment benefits. Until July 31st, many people who have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the COVID-19 response will be eligible for an additional $600 per week in federal benefits. That money comes on top of California state unemployment benefits. 

No Unemployment Benefits for Many Low Income Workers

Undocumented immigrants, who often live paycheck-to-paycheck, have been hit hard by COVID-19. Many are not able to work from home and have been laid off by employers. CalMatters highlights the story of an undocumented man named Luis. He works at a carwash in the Los Angeles metro area. Due to the public health regulations, he was told that the business is shutting down for at least a month. Like so many other people in his position, he worries that his family cannot survive without additional income. 

It is an Economic Justice and Public Health Problem

Not only are many undocumented immigrants in Southern California being forced into a financially precarious position, but their health and safety—and thus the health and safety of the entire community—is being put at serious risk. By denying undocumented immigrants equal and fair access to coronavirus-related financial support, our government is all but forcing them to forego social distancing and find a way to make money. For example, Luis, the former car wash employee, scrambled and got a part-time job at a liquor store—one of the few industries unaffected by the shutdown. As he told reporters, “I would stay at home but I have to work to provide for my wife and daughter.

Call Our Immigration Attorney for Help

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are fierce advocates for immigrant rights. To promote public safety and protect the health of clients and staff members, our physical office is closed. However, we are fully operational and can handle all issues via telephone or video conference. If you or your loved one needs immigration law advice, please contact us today. We will review your case, answer questions, and devise a plan of action to protect your rights. 

Josh Goldstein
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