Fact check: House bill expands stimulus checks to some, not all, undocumented immigrants
Corrections & Clarifications: The ruling on this fact-check has been updated to indicate that it is true that undocumented workers would receive stimulus checks under a bill.
The claim: Bill would give undocumented immigrants stimulus checks
An article from a conservative news site states a bill introduced in the House of Representatives would allow undocumented immigrants to receive stimulus checks as part of the CARES Act.
Democratic Reps. Lou Correa of California, Judy Chu of California and Raúl Grijalva of Arizona on April 3 introduced the bill, the Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act, "to allow 2020 recovery rebates to be made on the basis of an individual’s taxpayer identification number."
The legislation has nearly 50 co-sponsors, including Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ruben Gallego of Arizona. The House, which is controlled by Democrats, has not passed the bill.
What the bill would do
The bill would amend the qualifications necessary to receive federal support provided by the CARES Act, the emergency coronavirus relief bill passed in March.
The CARES Act requires recipients of benefits to provide a valid Social Security number, which undocumented immigrants don’t have and can't legally get.
"When undocumented immigrants work with a SS number, it is either fake or someone else’s,” Steven Wallace, a community health sciences professor at UCLA said in an emailed statement to PolitiFact.
The Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act would amend the CARES Act by adding an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number as an acceptable credential to receive government benefits.
An ITIN is a number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service to make sure people who are not permitted to receive a Social Security number pay taxes “regardless of their immigration status,” according to the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit immigration research and advocacy organization.
Individuals with ITINs are “not eligible for all of the tax benefits and public benefits that U.S. citizens and other taxpayers can receive," the immigration group says on its website. "For example, an ITIN holder is not eligible for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).”
The push to include undocumented immigrants in the coronavirus relief package stems from House Democrats’ sentiment that all taxpayers should receive government assistance, a news release on Correa’s website reads.
“While many of us sit at home, these hardworking immigrants are still at work in our hospitals, our fields, and countless other industries. The coronavirus doesn’t care about a person’s wealth, job, or immigration status,” Correa said in a written statement. “By casting out immigrants, we are placing some of our most vulnerable residents in grave danger. Every individual taxpayer, irrespective of citizenship status, needs government assistance now.”
According to a 2016 report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants pay $11.6 billion per year in state and local taxes. The institute also reported it is likely at least half “of undocumented immigrant households currently file income tax returns using (ITINs).”
Many undocumented immigrants pay taxes because it’s legally required and because their history of tax payment may in some cases be used to strengthen their cases for citizenship.
But expanding eligibility for federal relief to include individuals with ITINs would help expand aid to only some undocumented immigrants because not all undocumented immigrants have ITINs. Many who come to the country for employment work in jobs that pay “under the table” (not taxed by the IRS) and may not have ITINs.
Our ruling: True
Based on our research, we rule this claim to be true. The Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act would expand access to the CARES Act federal relief to individuals who have an ITIN, benefiting the many undocumented immigrants in that situation, not all undocumented immigrants have ITINs.
If passed, the bill would aid only undocumented immigrants who have ITINs and pay taxes.
A substantial number of undocumented immigrants do not work or work at untaxed “under the table” jobs. That portion of the undocumented immigrant population would not be eligible for relief under the legislation.
Our fact-check sources:
- Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Undocumented Immigrants’ State & Local Tax Contributions (2016)
- News release, Rep. Lou Correa
- S. 3548
- Leave No Taxpayer Behind Act
- Bloomberg Tax, Internal Revenue Code, § 6428. 2020 Recovery Rebates For Individuals
- The American Immigration Council, The Facts About the Individual Tax Identification Number
- PolitiFact, No, undocumented immigrants don't get Medicare for free
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