Next Senate COVID-19 Bill Must Include 5 Key Immigrant-Inclusive Provisions of House HEROES Act
THE TORCH: CONTENTSBy Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec
MAY 28, 2020
When the U.S. Senate returns from recess in early June, your senators will have yet another opportunity to provide crucial relief to people in immigrant communities who, unacceptably, have been left out of the COVID-19 relief bills passed so far. Waiting for them is a $3 trillion measure, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, that the U.S. House of Representatives passed on May 15, 2020, to provide additional economic relief made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Senate’s Republican leadership has attempted to slow-walk action on further relief legislation, it is crucial that your senators move swiftly to pass the next relief bill — this time one that includes immigrant communities. The top five immigrant-inclusive provisions approved by the House in its HEROES Act that must be part of any new Senate relief package are:
1. Access by uninsured people, regardless of their immigration status, to free COVID-19 testing and treatment, as well as to any eventual vaccine, through Emergency Medicaid. In order to ensure that immigrants and their family members feel safe accessing these vital services, Congress must suspend the “public charge” wealth test for immigrants and suspend civil immigration enforcement activity.
2. Stimulus checks for immigrant taxpayers left out of previous relief bills — including millions of U.S. citizen spouses and children who were excluded from receiving stimulus checks under the CARES Act because the principal tax-return filer (or, if a couple filed jointly, one of the joint filers) filed their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number.
3. Automatic extension of work permits and protection from deportation for immigrants, including people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or temporary protected status (TPS). The HEROES Act would also provide protection from deportation and work authorization to people doing critical infrastructure jobs, including agricultural work, meatpacking, and other types of work.
4. Release of some people from immigration detention and basic care for people in detention. The HEROES Act would require U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to review the files of anyone detained who is not subject to mandatory detention and prioritize their release or provide alternatives to detention. The bill also provides that free and unlimited access to telephones, soap, sanitizer, and other necessary personal hygiene products be provided to people in immigration detention during the pandemic. We encourage Congress to prioritize releasing more people from civil detention custody because tens of thousands of detained immigrants are still languishing in unsafe and inhumane conditions.
5. No additional funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and restrictions on DHS’s ability to transfer funds to pay for counterproductive activity. At a time when it is particularly dangerous, irresponsible, and cruel to continue immigration enforcement and detention efforts, we must ensure that no additional funds be made available to Trump’s deportation force.
The global health crisis we are in has revealed starkly just how interconnected we all are as a society and made it clear that, in order to survive and then recover from the crisis and, as a society we must provide relief and solutions that include and protect everyone, regardless of where we were born or how much money we make. The Senate must move swiftly to pass the next relief bill and must ensure that it includes these key provisions of the HEROES Act.
Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec is NILC’s immigration policy advocate.