On May 12, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion relief package to lay the groundwork for Congress’s fifth stimulus bill responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Unlike the prior stimulus packages, the HEROES Act takes critical and overdue steps to address the needs of immigrants. The National Immigrant Justice Center applauds the inclusion of the following positive provisions and urges the Senate to adopt them in any final bill:
- The HEROES Act rectifies the wrongs of prior stimulus packages by addressing the health care and financial needs of individuals, regardless of immigration status. The bill ensures that undocumented individuals without health care coverage receive free COVID-19 testing and treatment. It also extends direct cash payments to undocumented individuals and mixed status families who were previously excluded so that they can provide for their families and survive.
- The HEROES Act addresses the emergency situation in immigration detention centers, where high-risk individuals face increasingly dire health circumstances despite having homes where they could safely shelter-in-place and protect themselves from COVID-19. The bill addresses the staggering increases in infection numbers and the impossibility of social distancing and other precautionary measures in jails and prisons by providing for the release of some immigrants from custody. The bill also requires bare-minimum care for people who remain detained, including access to hygiene products and free use of telephone to contact concerned family.
“The HEROES Act comes as the Trump administration increases its efforts to use the COVID-19 pandemic as pretext to discriminate against immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers,” said NIJC Director of Policy Heidi Altman. “While even more could be done to provide relief and fully address the needs of our immigrant communities at this time, the bill is a welcome source of relief and support for immigrants and families struggling to maintain their livelihoods and safety.”
NIJC calls on members of Congress to support the provisions in the HEROES Act and ensure that future stimulus bills do not repeat the mistake of leaving America’s immigrant families and communities behind.