No relief for unemployed and undocumented

It’s difficult to be as invisible in plain sight as an immigrant laborer in New Jersey today. The undocumented, especially, are those essential workers who have no choice but to labor through a pandemic. The pay is minimal and the days are long. Yet, these are the lucky ones who got to keep their jobs. Because if you’re undocumented and you get laid off, you’re not eligible for unemployment, despite the fact that you’ve been paying into the system all along.

Vineeta Kapahi, Policy Analyst for Immigration & Economic Security at New Jersey Policy Perspective, said “they’re also paying sales taxes, payroll taxes, income taxes and property taxes. In New Jersey along, undocumented immigrants alone, pay over $600 million in state and local taxes.” And over the past decade over a billion dollars into unemployment insurance. Those are some of the findings in a new report from New Jersey Police Perspective. Vineeta Kapahi is the report’s author, which makes two main points, “one is supporting a current piece of legislation that would provide payments comparable to the stimulus payments that have been issued to many other Americans under the CARES Act. We also suggest creating a fund or program that’s parallel to unemployment insurance to help folks that have been excluded from that, to sustain payments for the duration of the crisis.”

The findings were at the center of a demonstration at the statehouse today organized by Make the Road New Jersey, the immigrant and working peoples advocacy group. They were marking 100 days since the governor’s state of emergency and highlighting the economic pain of the undocumented worker. “Today we are here to tell the story of people who have been left behind by aid, of people who are on their 100th day without relief. Think about that. 100 days. No relief. No jobs. No income. No unemployment insurance. No stimulus check,” said Nedia Morsy, Make the Road New Jersey lead organizer. Reverend Lukata Mjumbe, Pastor at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, added, “The undocumented women and men, the families in this state deserve justice, deserve relief, deserve protection. What is happening in the state of New Jersey is a moral crime.”

The bill co-sponsored by senators Ruiz and Scutari would establish a $35 million fund to provide one time stimulus-type payments to individuals and families headed by undocumented workers. The bill doesn’t have a hearing yet and in a budget year bound to inspire austerity, could face a tough road to passsage, signaling prolonged pain for a population already on the margins.