Cabrera: Excluding undocumented immigrants from stimulus is wrong

Councilman Fernando Cabrera discusses COVID'S affect on houses of worship.
Photo courtesy of John McCarten

The first stimulus package for small businesses ran out in two weeks and Tuesday, the Senate passed new $500 billion one. Yet, undocumented immigrants were left out of both plans.

Councilman Fernando Cabrera expressed his disappointment and told the Bronx Times that in a borough with many undocumented workers, this is unjust and flat out wrong.

In an effort to rectify this problem, the councilman submitted legislation to the city council calling on both the city and the state to allow undocumented workers to apply for and receive the city’s and state’s Earned Income Tax Credit using their individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) since they don’t have social security numbers.

“Since many undocumented immigrants file and pay federal taxes, contributing billions of dollars annually to the federal economy, this is patently unfair,” Cabrera said. “By now, the public has heard about racial disparities related to the coronavirus. This is another disparity, another instance of unfairness that hurts us all.  We must address inequity at all levels. Undocumented New Yorkers deserve this for what they contribute economically, while their very lives are at stake.”

According to a 2017 Fiscal Policy Institute report New York’s 817,000 undocumented immigrants contribute $40 billion to the state’s economy and pay $1.1 billion in state and local taxes. Of these taxpayers, more than 500,000 live in New York City.

Cabrera asked why is it okay for these people to be on the “front lines” of the COVID-19 pandemic, unprotected by masks and other gear as they work in healthcare facilities, construction and retail, but not permissible to offer them money in the stimulus?

“The stark truth is that undocumented immigrants are contributing to the state, city and national economies, but are denied any of the federal benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic that their work and taxes have earned them, making it impossible for them to continue to contribute, and keeping them at risk for contracting the coronavirus,” Cabrera said.

According to Cabrera, he is dumbfounded that millions in the first stimulus package went to places like Harvard University, Shake Shack and Ruth Chris, when none of those institutions need the money.

He urged small businesses to apply before and is doing the same now. The councilman said the new package is only expected to last 10 days.

“My advice to business owners who haven’t applied is to apply ASAP,” he said.

Cabrera explained that he has received numerous calls during the past month of despondent people worrying about their businesses. Many are at their wits end and don’t know what to do. Undocumented people work hard and should not be pushed away, he stressed.

“I have people who told me I am leaving my business,” he remarked. “There’s no way I’m going to be able to pay back the rent.”

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