Coronavirus Checks For Illegal Immigrants? Massachusetts State Senator Says Yes

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Should illegal immigrants receive coronavirus stimulus checks?

If a bill proposed by Massachusetts state Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton) passes, that will be the case.

Supporters say it’s necessary and just. Opponents say it’s crazy and harmful.

On Wednesday, January 13, Eldridge proposed “An Act to provide equal stimulus checks to immigrant taxpayers” (SD.126). The bill would give a refundable state income tax credit to people who filed a Massachusetts income tax return in 2019 using an Individual Taxpayer Identification number, if they were ineligible for the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act stimulus payment. About 6 million illegal immigrants in the United States file state and federal income tax every year, according to the Congressional Budget Office; most of those are people who overstayed visa programs.

In Massachusetts the Eldridge bill would give illegal immigrants much of that tax payment money back. Illegal immigrants who filed an income tax in Massachusetts in 2019 could be eligible for an $1,800 check for an individual or $3,600 for a couple. They could also get $1,100 per qualifying child. That’s the case for individuals who made less than $75,000, heads of households who made less than $112,500, and joint returns below $150,000.

Eldridge, who in April 2020 unsuccessfully sought to get state stimulus checks sent to illegal immigrants, says people here illegally who pay taxes deserve the sort of coronavirus relief that American citizens are getting.

“Hard-working, tax-paying immigrants who contribute to our communities in so many ways, especially during the pandemic, also play a crucial role in Massachusetts’s economy. We need to ensure that undocumented immigrants and their families receive the same financial support as other taxpayers have through the federal CARES Act. At a time of a pandemic, more than ever, we need to take serious action and provide financial help to all vulnerable populations,” Eldridge said in a written statement emailed to NewBostonPost by a communications staff member on Thursday“While the federal government did not provide direct financial relief to tens of thousands of Massachusetts immigrants families, the Legislature, reflecting Massachusetts values, has the potential to do so.”
On average, a United States citizen pays more than $5,000 each year in state and local taxes, according to USA Today. Conversely, illegal immigrants nationwide paid $11.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2014, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.  There are somewhere between 11 million and 22 million illegal immigrants in the country — estimates vary wildly, depending on the source. That means that they would pay around $1,000 to $2,000 in state and local taxes each year, if even just half the immigrant population were adults.

Advocates for illegal immigrants have made it a priority to get coronavirus relief checks to those in the country illegally.

In late December the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition applauded Congress for passing a coronavirus aid package that included what the coalition calls “mixed status families” — meaning a mix of U.S. citizens and at least one illegal immigrant in the same family.

But more is needed, the organization says. The checks approved by Congress late last month amount to “survival assistance” that “does not even come close to adequately addressing the severe needs of our communities,” the organization said.

“The package also leaves out nearly 3 million U.S. citizen children whose parents filed taxes using ITIN numbers – essentially punishing these children for having non-citizen parents,” the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition said in a written statement December 27. “MIRA’s focus will now shift to advocating for the additional aid that our communities need and educating those who are now eligible to receive the $1,200 they were deprived of in April.”

In a statement emailed to NewBostonPost on Friday, Eva Millona, President and CEO of the MIRA Coalition, praised the bill proposed by Eldridge.
“Senator Eldridge’s bill ensures that immigrant taxpayers receive the same amount of relief that they were unfairly denied in the federal stimulus packages,” she wrote. “These individuals contribute to our economy and many are frontline workers, and they have experienced disproportionate rates of job loss and food and housing insecurity. They need and deserve relief – and we’re grateful to Senator Eldridge for acting where the federal government has failed.”

Immigration-reductionist groups and fiscally conservatives organizations say Eldridge’s bill is a bad idea.

Jessica Vaughan, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, says that it sends the wrong message to both American taxpayers and illegal immigrants.

“This idea is nuts, and deeply unfair to Americans and legal immigrants who have been crushed by the pandemic shutdowns,” Vaughan told NewBostonPost in an email message. “First of all, the only reason illegal aliens get ITINs is so that they can receive tax credits and refunds for income they earned using someone else’s social security number (a felony).  The Department of Treasury audits have confirmed that they pay out more in credits and refunds to illegal alien ITIN holders than they collect in taxes.  Other studies have shown that the child tax credit is flagrantly abused, resulting in significant payments for fraudulent claims.”

Offering coronavirus checks only encourages illegal immigration, which ought to be discouraged, Vaughan said.

“Instead of rewarding this wrong, instead, the illegal aliens who are working under identity theft should be prosecuted and removed after paying restitution from their ill-gotten gains to their victims,” Vaughan said. “Secondly, creating a tax-payer funded benefit like this only encourages illegal aliens to remain here; instead, we need policies that encourage them to depart. Finally, it is absurd for taxpayers to offer a benefit like this to people who should not be here in the first place and are employed illegally, thus denying job opportunities to unemployed Americans and legal immigrants.”

Matthew Tragesser, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the state should devote the resources it has to helping its people who are here legally.

“Providing stimulus payments to illegal aliens is an affront to U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants who are needing financial relief amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tragesser wrote in an email message. “There is only a finite pool of money that’s available to help during this crisis and it should not be granted to those who are not only unlawfully present in the country, but are also working illegally. 

“Many illegal aliens fully understood they were violating the law when they took jobs that they were ineligible for in the United States, so some personal responsibility must be taken here,” he added.

Paul Craney, spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, argued that the bill is a way to appease the political Left.

“Senator Eldridge is a career politician who has virtually no idea for how the state economy works,” Craney told NewBostonPost by email. “During the pandemic, Sen. Eldridge has never missed a paycheck and even got a pay raise. The pain that so many are feeling is not shared by the Senator. His latest antic is a purely a political stunt to feed his political ideology. He’s more interested in playing politics during the pandemic, with money that should go to taxpayers that need relief, but instead he is catering political ideology.”

Chip Ford, executive director for Citizens for Limited Taxation, told NewBostonPost that it would not be fair if the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed a benefit for just one kind of taxpayer — illegal immigrants — but not everyone else.

“The unbounded generosity of the Massachusetts Legislature with state revenue would be admirable, if it wasn’t taken from other taxpayers who pay the cost of the generosity,” Ford said by email. “There is a reason the U.S. Congress and federal government precluded benefits to non-citizens in its CARES acts:  lacking Social Security numbers they are not recognized as citizens.

“The CARES acts (2020 and 2021) provide federal money to U.S. citizens who pay taxes to the IRS, or had before the pandemic response eliminated their jobs,” Ford added.  “If the commonwealth wants to create its own state CARES fund — though I wouldn’t recommend it in light of lost revenues due to the economic lockdown — it shouldn’t be discriminatory, applying only to one class and not to all state taxpayers.”

The bill has not yet been assigned to a legislative committee.