A Pew Research Center survey published May 22 found that a majority of U.S. adults (68 percent) believe the federal government has a responsibility to provide medical care to undocumented immigrants who are sick with coronavirus. Only 32 percent believe that the government should provide economic relief, such as stimulus checks, to undocumented immigrants who have lost their jobs due to pandemic shutdowns. The study surveyed 10,957 adults as part of the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel between April 29 and May 5.
Views on this issue varied widely based on partisan identification, race and ethnicity, and other demographic characteristics, Pew reports.
The Pew study found that the most reliable indicator of views on this issue was partisan identification. Fifty-six percent of Democratic-leaning respondents supported providing economic relief to undocumented immigrants while only 14 percent of self-identified Republicans agreed. There was also a sharp partisan divide on the issue where two-thirds of Americans agreed: 85 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of Republicans supported providing medical care.
This data reflects the observation that American’s views on immigration have become increasingly polarized in recent years. Polling on all issues related to the government response to the coronavirus pandemic has also shown significant partisan divides.
There are approximately 10.5 million undocumented or unauthorized immigrants in the United States. None are eligible for unemployment benefits and 45 percent are uninsured. Before the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, undocumented immigrants made up approximately 4.6 percent of the United States’ labor force.
In the last two months, 36 million Americans filed unemployment claims and received unemployment benefits, a benefit for which undocumented immigrants are not legally eligible. Undocumented immigrants also received no economic relief from the CARES Act, which passed in late March. The $2 trillion economic relief package provided one-time cash payments, $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples, plus $500 for each dependent, to all eligible Americans.
The CARES Act was criticized for neglecting undocumented immigrants, as well as their spouses and families. A second government stimulus package, which passed the House on Friday May 15, includes expanded protection for undocumented immigrants. The bill, known as the HEROES Act, would provide the same $1,200 cash payments to workers with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) and who pay taxes. The bill would also temporarily protect people working in essential fields from deportation.
“Right now, the American people have focused on their own survival and that of their families,” said House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), co-sponsor of the bill, to The Hill. “I want to make it very clear: COVID-19 does not discriminate or differentiate on immigration status.”
These results were released in the wake of Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) announcement that he will be introducing legislation to expand legal immigrants’ access to federal health care subsidy programs. The bill, known as the HEAL for Immigrant Women and Families Act, would allow legal immigrants who meet the income requirements to enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If passed, the bill would also allow undocumented immigrants to purchase health insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace.
Sources: Pew Research Center 5/21/2020; The Hill 5//2020; ABC News 5/20/2020; Vox 5/20/2020, Vox 5/15/2020