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CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters

To help Texans is to help immigrants

No one should be left out of coronavirus relief because of their immigration status.

America is made up of immigrants, and Texas even more so. 

Our state is home to over 4 million immigrants, with 1 in 6 residents born outside the U.S. Nineteen percent of Texas health care workers fighting on the front lines of the pandemic are immigrants, and foreign-born workers make up a quarter of our essential workforce. In this state, immigrants are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends, and our family.

However, our conservative lawmakers have decided to pick and choose which Texans they represent. Although immigrants have been affected the most by the coronavirus pandemic, they’ve been helped the least. From stimulus checks to unemployment assistance, our laws purposefully exclude immigrant Texans, an immoral practice that needs to end if we want to make it out of this crisis. 

Immigrants are hit hardest by COVID-19.

The virus doesn’t discriminate, but the effects of COVID-19 disproportionately impact immigrants and black and brown communities across the state. Over the last three months, heartbreaking stories have emerged that highlight the impact this disease has had on Texas immigrant communities. 

In some Texas meatpacking plants, which have been the center of the state’s worst outbreaks, immigrants make up nearly the entire workforce. This is true in Amarillo, where an “explosion” of cases has left essential workers and their families with few options. 

On the border, the virus has spread like wildfire in detention centers, infecting hundreds of migrants who face unhealthy living conditions and poor sanitation. ICE continued to put families at risk by conducting raids during a public health crisis, and our president used this opportunity to rush deportations of migrant children. 

Immigrant children in Texas are also more likely to fall behind due to school closures, and undocumented workers are at greater risk of eviction. Nearly 2 million Texas immigrants are uninsured, making it more difficult to get tested and treated for COVID-19 symptoms. 

Not everyone is living through the same pandemic, and immigrants in Texas experience far more hardship. Government aid needs to account for these inequities, but our legislation has fallen far, far, short of that goal. 

Your survival should not depend on your immigration status.

While the federal government has given out an unprecedented amount of assistance to Texans, immigrants have been intentionally and systematically left out. As many as 2.4 million Texans didn’t receive stimulus checks, simply because they are immigrants or live in a household with one. This means that millions of struggling Texans, many of whom are U.S. citizens, didn’t qualify for aid just because of immigration status.

Furthermore, Texas immigrants often don’t qualify for unemployment or Medicaid, exacerbating the effects coronavirus has had on working families. Language barriers have also prevented Spanish-speaking immigrants from reaching benefits, as many applications are complicated and hard to understand. 

This is discrimination, plain and simple. Conservative legislators have intentionally made it more difficult for immigrants to access assistance, or completely prevented them from getting help during a pandemic. It’s unacceptable — your immigration status should never determine your survival.

Texas immigrants must be protected & cared for. 

Republicans like to argue that immigrants shouldn’t qualify for assistance, usually spouting unfounded and racist claims that immigrants are a drain on resources and don’t give back to their communities. 

Unsurprisingly, they’re wrong — immigrants are the backbone of the Texas economy. A new study shows that undocumented immigrants bring in more money to Texas than the government spends, giving the state around $420 million each year. Immigrants make up over a quarter of Houston’s GDP. And despite only making up 13% of San Antonio's population, 30% of the city’s business owners are born outside the U.S. 

If we want to help the economy during this crisis, the best way to do that is to support Texas immigrants.

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and people are worried about putting food on the table, making rent, and staying healthy. Our first priority should be helping all Texans make it through this crisis — regardless of immigration status or their contributions to the economy. 

Every Texan deserves aid to make it through this crisis. Any government assistance, on the federal or state level, must include immigrants and their families. 

To help Texans is to help immigrants. Period.