Illegal Immigrants Deserve More From the Government, Some Democratic Candidates for Massachusetts Fourth Congressional District Say

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Should political candidates promise to do things for illegal immigrants?

Some of the Democrats running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Massachusetts’s Fourth district think so.

During an online forum, the moderators asked three candidates about what they would do for illegal immigrants.

It was a user-submitted question from someone in Fairhaven that stated:  “COVID-19 has presented unique challenges for undocumented individuals and their family members. How will you support them during the pandemic and beyond?”

All three candidates seeking to replace U.S. Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III said the federal government needs to do more for illegal immigrants.

For democratic socialist, former Wall Street regulator, and Brookline resident Ihssane Leckey, that would mean free health care and money during the coronavirus pandemic.

“One thing I think we need to usher in immediately is $2,000 a month for every individual in our country,” Leckey said during the event, called South Coast Debate and hosted by Students of MA-04 on Friday, August 21. “This is a way that they can live a life with dignity, put food on the table while we clean up the mess of COVID-19, and move on to recover our economy. But look, I fight for Medicare-for-All and a Green New Deal for these reasons. As somebody who has lived in poverty, I understand their hurt, and as an immigrant, I understand their hurt. I will be fighting very, very hard for them in Congress.”

Illegal immigrants paid $27.2 billion in taxes — local, state, and federal — in 2017, according to the pro-amnesty America’s Voice. America’s Voice says there are about 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. If that figure is accurate, providing each of them with $2,000 per month for one year would cost the country about $264 billion; for six months, it would cost about $132 billion.

That does not include all of the other government services they use, nor does it include the cost of Medicare-for-All. It also depends on a population estimate that some studies, like one put out by Yale and Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers in 2018, say is far too low — the study estimated that there are likely at least 22.1 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Chris Zannetos, a Wellesley resident who has created software companies that provide cybersecurity and other services, didn’t mention universal basic income during his response, but he did mention universal health care, as Leckey did.

“I support universal health care, making sure we have a strong public option that is available to everyone — whether they can afford health care or not,” Zannetos said. “I think we also have to make sure that we get access to the services as well. We have to make sure we have incentives to get health services, community health services in those communities, and we get better transportation so people can access those services. All of these will help all of our immigrants — undocumented or not.”

Zannetos’s health care plan calls for capping people’s health insurance premiums at 8.5 percent of their income. It would allow people to choose whether they want a government-sponsored health insurance plan or a private health insurance plan.

Newton city councilor Becky Grossman also fielded the question but did not offer a particular service she would give to give illegal immigrants. Instead, she took it as an opportunity to take a shot at President Donald Trump — and to show her support for illegal immigration.

“I am horrified and outraged by President Trump’s campaigns of lies and attacks that have been based on hate against immigrants, threatening people and tearing families apart whose only crime is to believe that America means a better future for themselves and their children,” Grossman said. “And I am going to fight to protect immigrants and our American values. We need long, overdue comprehensive immigration reform.”

Seven of the eight remaining candidates in the Democratic primary attended the event. Newton city councilor Jake Auchincloss did not attend. He had a family emergency regarding his son, who is a baby, and could not make it.

The Fourth Congressional District primary is set for Tuesday, September 1. However, early voting across the state began on Saturday, August 22 and runs through Friday, August 28.