Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, April 8, 2020
In New York, a group of illegal immigrant women pushed out of their jobs as domestic workers during the coronavirus crisis are sewing homemade face masks, giving themselves a way to earn cash to remain here.
Out west, illegal immigrants continue to be the backbone of farm work — essential workers shielded from shelter-in-place orders so they can keep food flowing to grocery stores.
Meanwhile thousands of illegal immigrant “Dreamers” here under the Obama-era DACA program are nurses, some of them even working the front lines of the fight to treat COVID-19 patients.
Coronavirus is the ultimate proving ground for illegal immigrants, they believe — a chance to show they are as American as anyone else, sharing the same experiences and just as, if not more, integral to the economy. After the shared crucible of coronavirus, they feel, the lesson should be that ousting them would be not only economically suicidal, but immoral.
Illegal immigrants and DACA recipients say they deserve more.
“Immigrants of all statuses are helping to stop the spread of this virus,” said Edison Suasnavas, a DACA recipient who works as a molecular oncology specialist. “Instead of ripping our families apart, the Trump Administration and Congress must act immediately to provide us, and our families, with a path to citizenship and the long-term stability we deserve.”
Another part of the equation is the migrants who’ve been left jobless. The Migration Policy Institute says immigrants are overrepresented in hospitality, child care and cleaning jobs, which have been among the sectors hardest-hit by the shelter-in-place orders.
Some Democrats had tried to cover illegal immigrants in the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill Congress approved last month. House Democrats also tried to automatically extend visas and work permits for guest-workers and those on temporary forgiveness programs such as DACA.
Those efforts faltered, but Democrats have signaled they’ll try again.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Massachusetts Democrat, said this week that illegal immigrants must be able to access federal coronavirus assistance. And Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to carry out the automatic work permit renewals.
Rosemary Jenks, vice president at NumbersUSA, which advocates for stricter immigration controls, Americans should be the priority for those jobs, particularly at a time when so many have been laid off and are searching for work.
“The home countries of the illegal aliens likely would much appreciate their contributions, as they all face a pandemic, too,” she said.
A reporter last week prodded Mr. Trump on whether “undocumented” immigrants deserved stimulus aid.
“How do you suppose they survive during the COVID-19?” the reporter wondered.
“You’re saying ‘undocumented,’ meaning they came in illegally,” the president told her. “And a lot of people would say we have a lot of citizens right now that won’t be working. So, what are you going to do? It’s a tough thing. It’s a very terrible — it’s a very sad question, I must be honest with you. But they came in illegally. And we have a lot of people that are citizens of our country that won’t be able to have jobs.”
Still, he added, “I’m not going to give you a hard and fast answer because I just want to tell you, it’s something I think about and it’s something we’re working on.”
Mark Krikorian, executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, counters that the country doesn’t owe illegal immigrants anything.
“Most of them aren’t rapists or anything like that, but they are all trespassers,” he said.