One of the biggest surprises of the House version of the Coronavirus stimulus bill was what was not buried in the 1,400 pages of legislative jargon. The bill included all sorts of woke provisions that had nothing to do with throwing a lifeline to struggling American workers or preventing an economic meltdown, for which congressional Democrats took some well-deserved ridicule. But conspicuously absent were any provisions that would ensure that the left’s most favored constituency, illegal aliens, would be eligible for government relief checks.
The bill headed for the president’s desk, thankfully, is the more sober Senate version that includes many fewer special interest giveaways and is much lighter on the wokeness. And, it will still exclude illegal aliens from partaking in the $2 trillion that will be pumped into the economy — a condition that is not sitting well with the Democrats’ far left base.
“These taxpayers won’t get stimulus checks. That’s unjust,” complains Tim Breene, CEO of World Relief, a Christian NGO, in a column published on CNN.com. Rev. Breene is, no doubt, a sincere and compassionate man who is guided by his religious faith. No one should doubt that illegal aliens are suffering along with the rest of us as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, nor should any of us lack compassion for our fellow human beings regardless of their immigration status. But there is nothing “unjust” about a nation in crisis prioritizing the needs of its citizens over those who, as Breene acknowledges, “have violated U.S. immigration law.”
Breene and other advocates, as the headline of his column asserts, falsely equate taxpayers with citizens. They are not the same. Paying taxes is a transactional relationship with society; citizenship indicates that one is a full member of the political community subject to the rights, but also the duties, that come with that status. Or, as Thomas Jefferson eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence, citizenship entails that “we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” He said nothing about paying taxes.
Some illegal aliens do pay taxes. They do so because they earn income in the United States and because they are also beneficiaries of the social and physical infrastructure that was already established before they showed up uninvited. They send their kids to our schools, free of charge. They use government provided services. They benefit from police, fire protection, sanitation, public health, roads, bridges, transportation, and countless other amenities that are available to anyone who is physically present in this country. The taxes that they pay are an ethical obligation they owe for the services and benefits they consume. But tax payments do not purchase them full-fledged membership in American society. Moreover, the taxes that they pay fall far short of the costs of their presence here, by about $135 billion a year.
The stimulus payments are a fulfillment of the social contract that American society has with its citizens – that the government will protect and assist them in times of need or crisis in exchange for citizens’ commitment to serve and sacrifice on behalf of the greater good.
American society has no social contract with illegal aliens. As a moral and just nation, we will not let anyone starve or die needlessly, but we are under no moral obligation to offer illegal aliens the same relief that we provide to citizens and those who are legally present in our country.