Immigrants Pay Taxes, But Reap Few Benefits

By Iliana Salguero
Photo by Elias Castillo

I was shocked a couple of weeks ago when I talked to Christian Ramírez, Policy Director of SEIU, for the United Service Workers West. He explained to me that more than two million undocumented people who live in California will not receive any government benefit during this COVID-19 pandemic. It is like they do not exist. I was heartbroken to learn this. It is wrong.

The undocumented work hard for this country and they are being ignored once again. This time, it is in the middle of a health and humanitarian crisis. We are talking about a community that contributes over $3 billion in taxes in California every year, but in Washington, they think that they are not good enough to receive help as we face the coronavirus.

People who are under the Temporary Protected Status, or are a DACA beneficiaries did not receive a cent of the $2 trillion stimulus package that the Senate approved on March 25. At least 70% of these people have lived in California for a minimum of 10 years.

And that is not all. Many of the taxpayers are also essential workers who are risking their lives during this pandemic. These people clean the hospitals, and they are supermarket cashiers. They make deliveries, and most importantly they are farmworkers, the ones who put the food on our tables. Undocumented families are suffering, and they are also in need. They have children of their own.

We are the ones who need to raise our voices and fight for them. They are a vulnerable community, and most of them cannot even afford medical insurance. If they are fired or there are layoffs, they cannot apply for unemployment benefits, but as I said above, they pay taxes every year and every paycheck. They have obligations, but not benefits.

I applaud Mayor Eric Garcetti for helping the undocumented community last week with the Angeleno Card. That money will help undocumented families pay rent and survive this difficult time. Sadly, it is not enough. We need more help for them. We must call our representatives, and ask them to help this community, my community. Ramirez also told me that his organization with many other non-profits sent a letter

to California Gov. Gavin Newsom to urge him and the California State Legislature to allow access to benefit programs, regardless of immigration status. The initiative would also permit people to apply for EDD benefits. I ask you to support undocumented immigrants. They are hardworking people, just like you. They too deserve to feed their family, to have food on the table and access to water and medicine.

They should have $8.99 a month to pay Netflix and entertain their kids. Remember that all quarantines are not the same. You may have an easy one, with food deliveries, wi-fi, movies, boardgames and all your loved ones safe. But undocumented families are afraid. They don’t have money. They lack health insurance, and most of them don’t have a car. They have struggled every day they have lived in this country, but now, they are struggling even more because the government is treating them like they are ghosts. Americans, we can change course. Be their voice. Be their help.

Let us know what you think.

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