Where Do Undocumented Immigrants Stand After Approval of Cotton’s Bill?
On February 4, 2021, the American Senate passed a constitutional amendment that barred undocumented immigrants from receiving stimulus checks.
The amendment was introduced by Todd Young (R-Ind) and Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark), and it made any direct stimulus payments to those residing in the US illegally totally out of the question.
According to the amendment bill, “The purpose of this amendment is to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to preventing legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive Economic Impact Payments for any other similar direct, tax-based temporary financial assistance.”
This amendment passed on a bipartisan vote of 58-42 in the Senate. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.; Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; Kirsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. joined the GOPs in voting for this measure.
What’s Changed for Immigrants after Cotton’s Bill?
Cotton’s amendment is not binding, while it seems that the lawmakers will not change their positions because of the fact that they are on the record now. On the other hand, immigration hawks welcomed this non-binding measure after noting that at least some Democrats were drawn by the passage.
As in the words of RJ Hauman, Head of Government Relations for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), “It should be a no brainer when it comes to direct stimulus payments going to American citizens and not illegal aliens, but who knows even in this crisis. After tonight, we’re encouraged to see that a handful of Democrats finally decided to focus on the concerns of Americans on immigration, not their party’s radical fringe.”
Likewise, the new constitutional development makes no difference for illegal immigrants, as they were already not getting a stimulus check. So, the situation for undocumented immigrants remains the same in either case.
In the last two stimulus checks – distributed previously by the federal government last year, undocumented immigrants had no share. These payments were only made to immigrants with Social Security numbers as every immigrant needs a social security number to work in the US legally. The illegal immigrants were excluded because they don’t have any social security number and can only file taxes using the Individual Taxpayer Identity Number (ITIN).
Some of the Democrats in the House called for legislation for ITIN filers, whereas others proposed giving debit cards to everyone, including the illegal immigrants.
No Impact of Cotton’s Bill on Legal Immigrants
Ostensibly, the amendment has no impact on the legal immigrants, who were eligible for receiving first, and second stimulus payments. Similarly, eligibility for mixed-status families, dependents, older people, retired, prisoners, and nonfilers will also not be affected.
The amendment seems unwarranted as illegal immigrants had received no stimulus checks distributed previously in the spring and then in December 2020. The reason behind not making payments to them was that they did not have social security numbers.
Hopefully, the legal immigrants will receive their third stimulus payment of up to $1,400 without facing any problem. However, there are some minor changes in the eligibility criteria set out in the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act (RAISE-2017) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES-2020).
Why should Illegal Immigrants be given Stimulus Checks?
American lawmakers, especially the Republicans, aren’t in favor of making stimulus payments to immigrants residing in the country illegally.
This is clearly evident from Young’s statement made during the voting on Cotton’s bill: “Economic Impact Payments were intended to provide a lifeline to Americans struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic. They were not intended for people who are in our country illegally. Our amendment would ensure that people who break our immigration laws aren’t receiving taxpayer-funded handouts.”
In the words of Senator Cotton, “The Biden administration shouldn’t reward illegal immigrants for breaking our laws by giving them check. Instead of courting foreigners with US taxpayer funds, President Biden should use that money to aid American schools, businesses, and families.”
The Senators who presented or voted for the bill believe that the illegal immigrants legally do not deserve to be given a share in the stimulus funds, so they brought the bill to ensure that the money only goes to American residents.
How Can The Economy Stimulate without Stimulus Checks to Illegal Immigrants?
On the other hand, some liberals and Democrats as well, believe otherwise. To them, stimulus checks are meant to stimulate the ailing American economy, which is in bad shape because a huge number of people are not doing so well financially. The rising unemployment and other kinds of economic depression have reduced their purchasing power. Therefore, they are not able to spend money. Every single person living in the US is part of the economy, without any exception. Even the illegal immigrants, not only are they living on American soil but also playing their role in its economy by earning money, spending money, and paying taxes. So, if the government wants to stimulate the economy, it must include illegal immigrants in the stimulus funds.
Secondly, when the core purpose of the stimulus payments is to help local and national businesses, withholding money from undocumented immigrants isn’t something that can help achieve this goal. Regardless of how the government’s money gets to businesses, the stimulus money would surely boost local businesses, ultimately strengthening the national economy. And there are many businesses established by illegal immigrants locally. Moreover, when the stimulus money goes to illegal immigrants, they will buy things and pay sales tax.
Another tangible reason to give stimulus checks to illegal immigrants is that they live in America and contribute to the workforce, if not paying taxes. A large number of companies and businesses hire illegal immigrants as cheap labor and pay them low wages under the table. With this little money, the illegal immigrants cannot buy healthcare services, affecting American society when they get sick. In this way, illegal immigrants are perhaps the most deserving people for the stimulus checks.
It may be remembered that the Biden administration is up for adopting a pro-immigrant policy and aims at bringing reforms to put almost 11 million illegal immigrants on their path to American citizenship. However, it should have considered these millions of undocumented immigrants for the stimulus checks because they pay taxes by using the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. They generate billions of dollars for healthcare, and Social Security, yet aren’t given any benefits.