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Applauds People-First Approach of House Bill

As the United States has been forced to rapidly adjust to life under pandemic response conditions, it has become clearer than ever that we are all united—only as protected as the least protected among us. Now is the time for unity and smart public health-oriented responses.

As the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives negotiate the third legislative stimulus package in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) applauds the members and leadership of the House for the bold people-first approach in the bill text released this evening. As negotiations proceed, we urge all members of Congress to take up the House bill and ensure that all Americans are able to focus on keeping their families and communities safe and healthy. The following provisions are critical to achieving that goal:

  1. Ensure that all financial and health relief offered through the stimulus includes all communities, including undocumented people. The last few weeks have proven that wellbeing is collective—all people’s health and financial security are bound up in one another. Numerous provisions of current law restrict immigrants’ ability to access health care through Medicaid and therefore leave some communities at risk of being unable to access COVID-19–related care. At this moment in our history more than ever, excluding some communities from access to care puts all communities at greater risk. In addition to access to life saving health care, Congress must ensure that all economic relief measures are available and accessible to all, regardless of immigration status.
  2. Refuse to fund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Last week, the White House submitted a request to Congress for nearly one billion dollars in funds to ICE and CBP to build “quarantine facilities” on the border. Giving these agencies hundreds of millions of dollars to keep people locked up in crowded facilities in the midst of a global pandemic is absurd and a potential death sentence for countless migrants and asylum seekers, as well as the communities surrounding detention centers. Congress must reject this request.
  3. Prohibit transfer or reprogramming of funds to ICE and CBP. Congress’s failure to restrict ICE and CBP’s ability to take money from other agencies’ accounts already has enabled the Department of Homeland Security to raid the budgets of the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the Coast Guard to fund wall construction, increased militarization at the border and in U.S. cities, and to expand its network of isolated, harmful immigration jails. Now more than ever, money intended for helping communities weather the coronavirus pandemic must remain available for that purpose, rather than putting it toward  separating families and funneling people into a dangerously overcrowded detention system.

Congress needs to prioritize the health and well-being of all communities during this crisis. Supporting, not locking up, immigrant families and communities is a necessary part of that. It is only by ensuring that everyone has access to support in this difficult time that we can make sure everyone stays safe and healthy—regardless of immigration status.