Gavel

M

y dad rushes past the television as Gov. Gavin Newson announces his stay-at-home order. He grabs his lunch and heads out to work like any other day. He works as a dock loader and doesn’t have the luxury of staying home during this pandemic. As a mixed-status household, the only real safety net we have during this pandemic is his job—we are the lucky ones.

Undocumented immigrants including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients are not eligible for benefits from the $2 trillion stimulus bill, because they do not have a qualifying Social Security number. Yet, undocumented immigrants are on the front lines of this pandemic: sanitizing buildings to reduce the spread of the virus; working on the fields so people have food on their tables; and, in my dad’s case, loading up supplies to have supermarkets stocked.

Leaving these 10.5 million people without an economic safety net is extremely counterproductive and dangerous for the pandemic. Many undocumented immigrants are working in essential industries and don’t have paid sick days, which economically forces them to go to work even if they are sick.

For households with qualifying Social Security numbers, the stimulus bill will provide a one-time payment of $1,200, although that amount might be less depending on your income. For every qualifying child age 16 and younger the household will receive $500. However, U.S.-born children with undocumented parents and mixed-status married couples will not qualify for this payment (except for military families). Under the bill, individuals with qualifying SSN will get an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit; in California the maximum weekly benefit is $713. The extra $600 payment will last up to four months, ending July 31.

Some might argue that undocumented immigrants should not be eligible for any benefits because they don’t pay taxes and technically the individual payment is a tax credit advanced for your 2020 taxes. That argument is misinformed, as many undocumented immigrants, despite having no Social Security number, pay taxes through their Individual Tax Identification Number. ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service to ensure people pay taxes regardless of their immigration status. According to the IRS, in 2015, 4.35 million people paid over 13.7 billion in net taxes using an ITIN and yet are not eligible for many tax and public benefits, including this federal tax credit.

Immediate response should come from the state government. My home state California has the second-highest statewide concentration of undocumented workers—1.75 million, according to The Pew Research Center. Immigrants contribute one-third of California’s GDP, over a third of our workforce, and pay billions of dollars in state and local taxes.

Undocumented immigrants will benefit from California earned income tax credit, which is a refundable cash-back credit for qualified low- to moderate-income working Californians. While the federal EITC (earned income tax credit) excludes ITIN tax filers, California earned income tax credit is not bound by these rules, for it’s a state-funded tax credit. However, you must have a Social Security number to qualify for CalEITC.

California Immigration Policy has been working on a campaign to include ITIN filers in the CalEITC.

“We continue to tell the governor that as part of the emergency response to COVID-19 it’s really crucial that he include ITIN files in the CalEITC, especially since the tax filing deadline was pushed back to July 15, so that gives more people time to file their taxes and claim their credit and people who already filed their taxes could amend their return to be able to claim their credit,” said Economic Justice Policy Manager Sasha Feldstein.

In addition to its budget act, California Immigration Policy is also working with legislative leaders such as Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), who sponsored Assembly Bill 2066. AB 2066 extends eligibility for CalEITC to ITIN tax filers, such as low-income undocumented immigrants.

During this pandemic, help for people should not be dependent on a nine-digit number, because whether you have a Social Security number or not is completely irrelevant to the virus—it affects everyone.

To support California Immigration Policy initiatives, you can go to its action portal at BIT.LY/caleitcACTION.