The Editorial Board, Houston Chronicle, April 15, 2020
This virus knows no boundaries, we’re told. No ZIP code. No political preferences, racial biases or favorite tax bracket.
But what about immigration status?
Are people living in the United States without the necessary paperwork less likely to contract the novel coronavirus? Are they less likely to pass it on to customers they cook for at restaurants? Less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and need a bed at the medical center? Less likely to lose a job, to be evicted, to hear the desperate sound of their child’s belly grumbling with hunger?
Not at all. Candido Batiz, his wife, 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter have the same fears, the same realities, the same needs as many others across Houston.
Batiz’s family needs a life raft right now, the same that has been promised to millions of others in this country who haven’t worked in weeks. But no help is coming for his family. His undocumented status makes him ineligible for federal relief.
Batiz and his fellow undocumented workers make up 50 percent of construction jobs in this state. But even those deemed essential during this outbreak, including agricultural workers and home health aides, aren’t eligible for most safety net programs — including unemployment insurance — and they were explicitly excluded from any share of the $2.2 trillion package that Congress approved last month.
When the $1,200 checks — $2,400 for couples filing jointly — start arriving this week from the federal government, undocumented immigrants won’t get a cent. Also left out are the 3.5 million children in immigrant households, many of whom are American citizens, who would otherwise mean an extra $500 for their parents.
We cannot accept that. We must demand our lawmakers expand relief to this vulnerable population, too.