After President Donald Trump signed a series of controversial executive orders to mitigate the pandemic’s economic consequences last weekend, many in the country are now convinced they are virtually excluded from the protection of the federal government.
Among them, undocumented residents.
With the economy partially shut down, the unemployment rate skyrocketing, and the number of positive COVID-19 cases exceeding 5 million in the country, the debate in Congress continues between Democrats demanding an extension of the aid programs and Republicans refusing to grant a $600-a-week benefit to unemployed citizens.
Yet while the country seems to be sinking into utter chaos, the silent workforce of undocumented workers continues to move forward, putting food on the table for all U.S. citizens alike, but not receiving a dime from the government in protections.
A new UCLA study released Monday found that the exclusion of these workers and their families from the initial $1,200 stimulus payments given to taxpayers during the pandemic “resulted in a $10 billion loss” in potential economic output, the university’s platform explained.
The research also found that the Trump government’s refusal to help citizens it considers “illegal” cost 82,000 jobs nationally, 17,000 in California alone.
In collaboration with the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center, and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the study comes at a time when the administration is once again making decisions that leave out essential demographics.
The investigation found that undocumented workers and their families contributed more than $1.6 trillion to the nation’s gross domestic product in 2018 through their shopping and workforce activities, and their reduced purchasing power amid a looming recession is both a public health and economic crisis, said Raul Hinojosa, the report’s lead author.
“Our undocumented neighbors buy groceries, pay taxes and support local businesses in economic activity that generates $190 billion in government revenue nationwide,” said Hinojosa, a UCLA professor of Chicano studies and the executive director of the North American Integration and Development Center. “It is cruel to deny undocumented residents financial assistance as unemployment rates skyrocket, but it’s also counterproductive fiscal policy that has negative consequences for all Americans who benefit from their economic contributions.”
The national unemployment rate for undocumented workers reached 29% in May, much higher than the rate for any other demographic group.
“Undocumented workers have suffered disproportionate health and economic impacts during this global health crisis that we are just beginning to understand yet they are being excluded from critical policy relief discussions and we need to address this through a comprehensive approach to economic recovery,” said Abel Valenzuela, director of the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment and a member of the study’s research team.
On the other hand, the study estimates that if undocumented workers were included in future relief efforts, the economic benefits would “outweigh the costs.”
According to the academic platform, economic activity generated by undocumented immigrants receiving tax credits under the HEROES Act enacted by the Democrats and rejected by the government and its elite would generate about 112,000 jobs nationally and produce $14 billion in economic output, which “would far exceed the $9.5 billion price tag of including them in recovery efforts.”
“Undocumented workers are fundamental to our economy, especially during the pandemic when many of them are the essential workers who are keeping us fed, safe and healthy,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative. “It would be only fair to recognize their contributions by including them in recovery efforts, and it is also clear that we cannot rebound from this crisis if we leave them behind.”