As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, it has exposed and exacerbated many of the inequities in our country. While some Americans have been able to self-quarantine and work from home, most working-class Americans have been forced to continue working despite concerns about getting sick. This is especially true of undocumented immigrants, who do not have the option to work from home, have access to the emergency cash assistance that is being federally provided, nor have access to unemployment insurance. Being the first state to do so, Governor Gavin Newsom announced earlier this week that California will be providing some cash assistance to undocumented immigrants living in the state.
In a press release, Newsom said "We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportations that are still addressing essential needs of tens of millions of Californians”(1). He continued, “California is the most diverse state in the nation. Our diversity makes us stronger and more resilient. Every Californian, including our undocumented neighbors and friends, should know that California is here to support them during this crisis. We are all in this together” (2). Finally, he added, "I'm not here to suggest that $125 million is enough. But I am here to suggest it's a good start, and I'm very proud it's starting here in the state of California,"(3).
The money for this assistance will come from a mix of state funds and private philanthropic donations (3). Officials estimate that about 150,000 immigrants will receive assistance, with $500 being given to individuals, and a $1,000 cap on each household (3). No personal information will be required to get the support and the state government will not be distributing the funds; instead, community-based nonprofits who have already established themselves in the immigrant community will be dispersing the money (1, 2).
While some Americans may feel that undocumented immigrants may be undeserving of financial assistance, Newsome noted that 10 percent of the state's workforce are undocumented immigrants who paid more than $2.5bn in state and local taxes last year (1, 2). Furthermore, in a public health crisis, if someone cannot miss work or cannot afford medical care, that puts the entire community at risk, argues immigration advocates (3).
1) AP News Agency. “COVID-19: California to Give Payments to Undocumented Immigrants.” Al Jazeera. April 15, 2020.
2) Ziv, Shahar. “California To Offer $500 ‘Stimulus Checks’ to Undocumented Immigrants.” Forbes. April 15, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/shaharziv/2020/04/15/california-to-offer-500-stimulus-payments-for-undocumented-immigrants/#1ea19b873ae2
3) Holcombe, Madeline, Shoichet, Catherine. “Why California is Giving its Own Stimulus Checks to Undocumented Immigrants.” CNN. April 16, 2020. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/us/california-stimulus-undocumented-immigrants/index.html