Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, famously said in 2008 that one should “never allow a crisis to go to waste.” The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Some House Democrats continue to use this crisis to pursue their long-held positions on immigration, only now they cite these extraordinary circumstances as the justification for their proposals.
Shortly following the passage of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package, Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 6438, the No Taxpayer Left Behind Act. This bill would allow illegal immigrants to earn individual stimulus checks that the stimulus package provides for American citizens and legal immigrants with Social Security numbers (SSNs). This is not the first time the government voted to send individual checks to Americans and legal immigrants as part of a stimulus package. In fact, the text of the eligibility clause of the virus stimulus closely mirrored that of the 2008 stimulus. It excludes “non-resident aliens” (i.e. illegal aliens) from receiving checks. It also stipulates that individuals can only use SSNs to prove their eligibility, and not Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). Some illegal aliens use ITINs to pay federal income taxes and to claim tax credits.
In the bill’s announcement press release, Rep. Correa states that “every individual taxpayer, irrespective of citizenship status, needs government assistance now.” Of course, hundreds of thousands of immigrants – who are not American citizens – will receive checks from the government.
Rep. Correa has maintained an active presence throughout the virus crisis. Before Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced her counter to the Senate’s Phase III stimulus legislation, Rep. Correa demanded that the stimulus include full legalization for DACA recipients – an outlandish proposal to include in a must-spend economic stimulus.
Rep. Correa is not the only House Democrat to suggest a questionable-immigration related proposal during these times. Rep. Grace Napolitano, an 11-term Democrat from California, penned a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Thirty-three of her Democratic colleagues co-signed the letter, which demands that DHS and USACE immediately cease construction of the southern border wall. Rep. Napolitano even suggests that the construction of the border wall will exacerbate the COVID-19 outbreak – a questionable connection, at best. A functioning border barrier may actually prevent the spread of COVID-19 by stopping sick people from illegally entering the United States between ports of entry.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to uproot everyday American life, and politicians in both parties are guilty of using the virus crisis to advance partisan desires. In the realm of immigration, California Reps. Correa and Napolitano are using these times to advance long-held beliefs of theirs – to protect illegal aliens and to stop the construction of a physical barrier on the southern border. The justifications may change, but the arguments remain the same.