Immigrant Families Must Be Included in Economic Stimulus Payments

August 12, 2020 | National

America is a nation of values, founded on the ideal that we are all created equal. These valuesfreedom, equality, and opportunityare strengthened by our immigrant neighbors who are a part of our country and our communities. Right now, immigrant workers are at the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis; keeping all of us healthy, fed and cared for in health care, retail, manufacturing and other essential industries.Yet despite the critical role immigrant families play in our communities, politicians chose to unfairly exclude mixed status immigrant families and immigrant workers when they passed the CARES Act in March.

Immigrants came to this country for the promise of freedom, equality, and opportunity and we are better off for it. Congress has yet to finalize their negotiations for the next relief package and policymakers have the opportunity to make economic stimulus payments inclusive and fair. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have introduced proposals on extending stimulus payments to immigrant families and workers, but they’re not all created equal. Some include partial fixes, such as the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act (S.4071) introduced by Senators Rubio and Tillis and the House companion, the Economic Impact Fairness Act (H.R. 7346), introduced by Representative Diaz-Balart. This bicameral bill would:

  • Remove the CARES Act requirement that BOTH spouses on a tax return must have a Social Security Number (SSN) to receive the stimulus payments;
  • provide stimulus payments to U.S. citizen children and lawfully residing children who were excluded from the CARES Act payments and have at least one parent with an SSN; and
  • provide only a partial retroactive fix to CARES Act and keep the cash payment amount the same ($1,200 for adults and $500 for children).

Another bill, the Coronavirus Assistance for American Families Act (S.4381), introduced by Senators Cassidy, Rubio, Dianes, and Romney would:

  • Create a new $1,000 Economic Impact Payment (EIP) for both adults and children, bringing much-needed parity to this program, and phase out the payments starting at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers;
  • include adult dependents, college students, and those with disabilities; and
  • provide payments to millions of U.S. citizens and work authorized immigrants for the first time.
  •  Similar to S. 4071, this bill does not have the CARES Act requirement that BOTH spouses on a tax return must have an SSN to receive the stimulus payments;

Both proposals continue to exclude citizen children of immigrant workers who file their taxes with Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)a dangerous policy choice that intentionally leaves behind millions of children. The proposed bills also fail to align with how policy treats citizen children in other contexts, such as the Child Tax Credit, which is available to citizen children who do not have a parent with a SSN.  

It doesn’t have to be this way. Congressional leaders could choose a proposal that includes immigrant families today. The HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) and Senator Hirono’s Coronavirus Immigrant Families Protection Act (S. 3609) corrects the CARES Act exclusion AND eliminates the barriers for all workers and their children regardless of whether they file with a SSN or an ITIN, ensuring that millions of immigrants and their children are treated equally. Analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy finds that more than 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children would benefit from these changes. Moreover, there is widespread support for including immigrant families in COVID-19 relief not just in Congress, but around the nation. According to a recent poll by the Hart Research Associates, 9 in 10 Americans support immigrant inclusion.

Economic stimulus payments, also known as cash assistance, help families make ends meet during this crisis and they also support children’s well-being and healthy development. Politicians must act swiftly to ensure the next COVID relief package is the most robust and inclusive yet, and that must include our immigrant neighbors and their children. Let’s live up to our values and do right by our kids, no matter where they come from or what they look like.

To read our full proposal on inclusive, direct, and recurring cash payments, click here to read our brief.