This month, most Americans are receiving a stimulus check, about $1,200 per person and $500 per child. These funds are sorely needed by the many who have fallen on hard times due to the coronavirus-related economic shut down. Millions are also receiving unemployment. The assistance may not be enough to remedy all the economic turmoil, but it will be a temporary lifeline for many.
However, there is one group of taxpayers that will not be receiving stimulus money or unemployment assistance: the many hard-working undocumented immigrants throughout our state and nation. Many of them do pay federal income taxes, but despite their economic contribution, they will not be included in the economic relief.
They will be one of the groups that is hardest hit from this pandemic, of course. Many work in restaurants that have either closed or cut back. Many more labor in other service capacities that have stopped work. These individuals cannot obtain unemployment assistance. Still, others are continuing to work hard in essential businesses. However, most are not part of the middle to upper class economic group that can work virtually from home.
Some other areas across the country are stepping up to help. Minneapolis has set up a fund for undocumented families. The state of California is providing $500 to undocumented individuals.
It is time for the state of South Carolina, and the cities of Charleston and North Charleston in particular, to consider similar action.
The old arguments that the government should not have to support undocumented immigrants do not apply in this situation. These are not individuals looking for a handout. They are people whose livelihoods have been taken away due to government policies, and while they may be necessary, are bringing unimaginable economic difficulty. Regardless of their immigration status, people still have to feed their families.
I would hope that during this time, we become a little bit more empathetic. Those of us who were privileged enough to be born in the first world have recently experienced just a tiny amount of the desperation and turmoil that many migrants have faced their entire lives.
We get angry when we have limitations placed on us leaving our houses for a few weeks. Imagine constantly living in a state of poverty and volatility and being told that you can never leave that situation because you are forever tied to your place of birth, like serfs in the Middle Ages.
Let’s find creative ways both on a personal and communal level to make sure that some of the most vulnerable among us are not forgotten during this crisis.
Will McCorkle is a South Carolina educator and immigration advocate.