California leads effort to help illegal immigrants overlooked by Trump's $2 trillion coronavirus relief package
The $2 trillion CARES Act is giving most taxpayers unemployment benefits and cash payments up to $1,200 but unauthorized immigrants numbering 11 million have been excluded from its scope
Not finding any economic help from authorities, illegal immigrants are now depending on charity for survival and California has taken a lead among various states, local governments and non-profit bodies to reach out to Americans to make tax-deductible donations from their own stimulus checks.
While life in America has relied heavily on low-wage workers to keep essential services going in these tough times, many of them who lack the status of legal immigrants have been doing so without receiving any financial assistance from federal authorities.
The $2 trillion CARES Act is giving most taxpayers unemployment benefits and cash payments up to $1,200 but unauthorized immigrants numbering 11 million have been excluded from its scope.
Those in California who have stepped in to help those immigrants said they are among the worst-hit by the pandemic. They are either being forced to work for low wages or even left jobless. On April 15, the Golden State's Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the state would pay cash to illegal immigrants.
The Democrat said that cash would be given using a mix of taxpayers' money and charitable contributions. Under the plan, 150,000 adults would be given $500 each during the outbreak.
California has an estimated two million immigrants residing in the country illegally. "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," Newsom said, adding that the support would not be extended on the basis of immigrants' income.
According to a Washington Times report, Newsom set a goal of $50 million in charitable donations and earmarked another $75 million of state taxpayers' money. Among the various initiatives that have been taken to help illegal immigrants across the US, a public school in Oakland, California, has sought cash.
A nonprofit organization in Texas set a target to raise funds worth $100,000 while Sanctuary DMV set an initial goal of $120,000 a month ago and after money started pouring in, a new target was set at $600,000. In New York, a fund has doubled its initial target of $100,000, the report added.
Conservatives move court to stop Newsom
Conservatives in the state were not impressed though. On Tuesday, May 5, public interest law firm Judicial Watch moved the judiciary on behalf of two state-based taxpayers to halt Newsom's program.
It said under federal law, the states can give benefits to illegal immigrants through a vote of the state legislature and Newsom did not have that permission.
After the judge refused to halt Newsom's initiative, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said the Los Angeles judge agreed that Newsom was likely making the payments with authorization but yet decided against stopping him keeping in mind the urgency of the situation where the public needed the assistance.
Fitton wanted to file an appeal but it looked like the Californian state authorities were determined.
“California is taking legally and morally justified action to assist all Californians impacted by COVID-19," Scott Murray, deputy director of public affairs for the California Department of Social Services, was quoted as saying by the Times.
This is not the first time that California is fighting for its illegal immigrants. Last year, it became the first state to give taxpayer-funded health benefits to adults and younger people living illegally and on low wages. This year, Newsom has proposed including people aged 65 and above under that scheme.
On Tuesday, sources in California said $9.9 million have been raised and the state was yet to cover a long distance to reach a position where it can help all two million illegal immigrants residing in its territory.