U.S. Rep. Ken Buck has introduced a bill that would prohibit federal coronavirus relief money to any state or city unless it certifies that no undocumented immigrants are “targeted exclusively” to receive benefits.
“With more than 40 million Americans out of work, it is unfair to send hard-earned taxpayer dollars to non-citizens who entered this country illegally,” said Buck, who is also the chair of the Colorado Republican Party. “We need to prioritize the American people by making sure taxpayers are not subsidizing blue states' plans to give cash payments to ‘illegal’ immigrants.”
The bill, which Buck named the No Bailouts for Illegal Aliens Act, would apply to money appropriated in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and any legislation subsequent to it. The ban would address entities that directed funding to people “who are believed to be unlawfully present” in the United States.
Buck’s office said that the bill, as well as a companion measure from Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is a response to Seattle city council asking Washington’s governor to create a $100 million fund to aid undocumented workers who were not eligible for the $1,200 relief payments to adult citizens. It also comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-Calif., announced that California in collaboration with some nonprofit organizations will provide similar payments of $500 to undocumented residents.
“My gut reaction is divided into two separate categories: 1. Does Rep. Buck have a heart?” said Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, who earlier this year authored a statehouse bill to delete the term “illegal alien” from Colorado law in favor of “unauthorized worker.” “And 2. Does Rep. Buck understand how our food supply chain works?”
She explained that many workers in the agricultural industry are undocumented and that they need financial help, too, especially if they are sick or quarantined.
“I’ve spoken with farmers and dairy owners in Rep. Buck’s district who have been asking for help with immigration policies for years because they depend on these folks to get the work done,” said Lontine, whose proposed bill died in a Senate committee this week.
In a statement, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition echoed the sentiment that undocumented workers who get sick and stay home also need financial support. "Congressman Buck’s bill goes against the foundation of home rule and the rights of local jurisdictions to choose how best to serve their communities," the statement read. "His attempt to withhold CARES funding from states and municipalities for helping their most vulnerable populations is the kind of policy measures we don’t need during a global crisis."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comment.