Advocate at REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, based in Waltham
As an advocate for immigrants who have experienced domestic violence, I know that escaping abuse is only their first struggle. Our state’s cost of living is so high that even in suburbs like Waltham, it can be hard to find affordable housing and meet basic needs if you are poor.
So when COVID-19 came, my clients had no savings, no cushion from job loss and for some, illness. Almost overnight, they went from precarious self-sufficiency to desperation. Some have to walk to food pantries, children in tow, and when they arrive the food is often gone. We help as best we can, gathering and distributing donations.
I don’t believe that in America, anyone should live like this. But what upsets me most is that while most displaced workers are getting unemployment, and US taxpayers got up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child under 17 in stimulus checks, my clients who are undocumented get nothing.
They’ve worked just as hard, and paid as much in taxes, but because they lack a Social Security number, they’re shut out of the safety net. It is cruel and profoundly unjust. They need to feed and house their families like everyone else, and deserve support as well.
A client I’ll call Jacki has paid taxes for 12 years, using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. “I love this country and consider it my own, so I’ve always wanted to contribute,” she told me. Now she’s 33, about to have a baby, newly unemployed, and in despair.
I brought Jacki to a roundtable with Metrowest legislators organized by the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition. She told her story and pleaded for them to pass proposed legislation providing state stimulus payments to immigrants disqualified from the CARES Act. “Undocumented victims of domestic violence like me will forever thank you,” she said.
I hope the proposed legislation is enacted. I have seen firsthand how much immigrants like Jacki contribute to society. They should enjoy the same benefits and privileges for paying into the system as all of us. It is only fair, and amid this devastating economic crisis, it is also a moral imperative.
Thomas M. Hodgson
Sheriff of Bristol County
Beacon Hill lawmakers should not provide stimulus checks to anyone who is in our country illegally.
First and foremost, those who were elected to the state Legislature are required to uphold the laws of our state and our nation, and to reward those who violate those laws translates into our elected representatives breaking their oath and promise to the citizens and legal residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Using the rationale that those who are illegally present in our state but are paying taxes and, therefore, should receive stimulus checks is like saying that illegal immigrants driving without a valid driver’s license should be entitled to a license because they pay highway tolls.
Just because you pay into a system, like the illegal immigrants who are paying taxes and would benefit from this proposal, doesn’t mean you are entitled to the benefits of said system if you are breaking the law at the same time.
Legislators picking and choosing certain groups to be exempt from the consequences of their conscious choice to violate our laws is un-American and unjust, and erodes the foundation of our democracy.
There is no provision in our democracy in which legislators have the right to subjectively eliminate the consequences for lawbreakers. Let’s be honest here, whatever money someone is earning while in this country illegally is money they have only been able to earn as a result of their illegal act. That same illegal act, moreover, limits the opportunity of American people who are unemployed to otherwise earn a living and pay taxes for a job they lawfully earn.
I understand this proposal would award stimulus checks to some individuals who are not US citizens but are in the country legally and paying taxes. I support that portion of this proposal because these individuals are here lawfully, following the immigration laws and regulations of the United States, and contributing tax dollars to our state’s and country’s infrastructure and government.
We need our elected officials to send a clear message that the rule of law matters and they will represent the interests of the lawful rather than reward lawbreakers.
As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. To suggest a topic, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.