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Sen. Ken Buck of Colorado

Even though the current law limits stimulus checks Congress authorized in the coronavirus relief law to citizens and legal residents, more than three dozen Republican lawmakers insisted Donald Trump make sure that the IRS doesn't give undocumented immigrants a penny.

In a letter sent to Trump on Monday, 39 Republican members of the House, led by Ken Buck of Colorado, said they "are concerned that language and definitions contained in the CARES Act may allow illegal immigrants to also take advantage" of the relief checks.


To ensure undocumented immigrants do not receive any assistance, the Republicans asked Trump "to investigate this matter to ensure that illegal immigrants are not reaping the benefits of our country's generosity."

Republicans say they are concerned because the IRS, which will issue the checks, uses residency requirements determined by how long a person has been in the U.S. regardless of immigration status. The letter expresses concern that "millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States may unintentionally receive a recovery rebate" despite language in the law limiting assistance to citizens and legal residents.

According to CNN, undocumented immigrants pay billions of dollars in federal taxes every year and contribute an additional $12 billion a year to Social Security.

"We are essential to the economy and to feed this country, but we don't get any help or support," Luis Jiménez, an undocumented immigrant who has lived in the U.S. for 16 years, told the Associated Press.

"It's hard because to the government, we don't exist," Contreras Lopez, a housekeeper who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, told the AP.

Many undocumented immigrants work in sectors hit hardest by the current pandemic, including in construction, restaurants, and other service-sector jobs. Undocumented workers make up about four percent of the U.S. labor force, according to the Washington Post, including 14 percent of agricultural jobs and seven percent of home health aides.

The Republican letter came after Trump has spent the entirety of the coronavirus crisis attacking immigrants in different ways.

Trump has used the coronavirus crisis to tout the need for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

"We need the Wall more than ever!" Trump tweeted on March 10 in response to the outbreak. Trump's border wall is one of the most visible parts of his anti-immigrant policies.

For weeks in the middle of the crisis, Trump used racist language to describe the pandemic, referring to the novel coronavirus as the "Chinese virus." Health experts repeatedly warned that using such language could lead to stigma and discrimination against both Asian Americans and immigrants from Asia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease."

"There are at least 1,000 hate crimes incidents being reported against Asians due to the coronavirus in the last five weeks," Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, told MSNBC on April 1.

In March, the New York Times reported that Trump will use the current pandemic to send asylum-seekers back to Mexico with no due process and no opportunity to plead their cases. According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration has expelled 10,000 immigrants from the country since March 21.

On April 3, Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Chu, and Lou Correa (D-CA) introduced legislation to ensure immigrant families can be helped by the provisions of the CARES Act.

"COVID-19 does not care about your immigration status, so neither should our response," Grijalva said in a statement. "This legislation prohibits discrimination when accessing COVID-19 relief programs and focuses on getting important economic assistance to all families — regardless of their immigration status — while expanding the nation's ability to control the virus and recover economically."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.