COVID-19 and Immigrants

Felicity Sanchez 7/24/2020

American flag and social security card

An estimated 5.1 million citizen and noncitizen children in immigrant families did not receive assistance in earlier pandemic and stimulus packages due to a requirement that both parents have social security numbers. As Congress considers the next stimulus package, members are considering provisions to address aid to immigrants, including legal immigrants whose status may expire while federal agencies are closed.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), enacted March 27, 2020, provides assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assistance includes direct payments of $1,200 to individuals and $500 per child, only if the entire family has social security numbers, excluding members that use an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) to pay taxes. The Migration Policy Institute estimates the act excludes 15.4 million individuals in families who have “mixed status” with citizens, legal immigrants and undocumented family members, 5.1 million of whom are U.S. citizens and noncitizen children with an undocumented parent. A lawsuit has been filed claiming discrimination against U.S. citizen children solely on the basis of their parents’ immigration status.

In May, the House of Representatives passed a new round of assistance called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES), H.R. 6800. The HEROES Act has not been taken up by the Senate. Congress returned to session on July 20. The boost in unemployment benefits under the CARES Act is set to expire July 31.

Assistance in the HEROES Act renews direct payments and makes them available to mixed status families and individuals who use ITINs. Other benefits related to immigrants unavailable under the CARES Act include protection from deportation for 125,000 individuals whose work authorizations and legal status expired during the pandemic. Below is a chart comparing the benefits to immigrants under the CARES and HEROES acts.

Benefits Accessible to Immigrants

Benefits

CARES Act

Heroes Act

Direct Relief Payments

 

           X

           ✓

Unemployment Benefits

           X

           ✓

Medicaid Health Coverage for COVID-19 testing and treatment

regardless of immigration status

           X

           ✓

Federal Nutrition Assistance Programs

           X

           ✓

Permit extension for DACA and TPS

           X

           ✓

Protection from consequences faced

from inability to meet filing deadlines

or depart the country in time due to COVID

           X

           ✓

Extension of temporary immigration

status and employment authorization

set to expire during the pandemic

           X

           ✓

Unused immigrant visas roll over to

following years

           X

           ✓

Prevents DHS from transferring funds to

areas such as immigration enforcement

           ✓

           ✓

Additionally, in response to COVID-19, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on March 18 that it will not conduct immigration enforcement activities near health care facilities consistent with its sensitive locations policy.

Additional Resources:

Prepared by Felicity Sanchez, summer intern, NCSL Immigrant Policy Project, July 14, 2020.