Dozens of community leaders and members of Make the Road NJ rallying in Paterson seeking pandemic aid for undocumented workers on April 14, 2022. (Danielle Richards for New Jersey Monitor)
Undocumented immigrants are calling again for more financial aid from the state, saying they deserve more for the billions they contribute in state and local taxes.
Timed for the April 18 deadline to file federal taxes, Latino activists and undocumented immigrants rallied in Paterson to demand $1 billion to help people who were excluded from stimulus checks and unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
Protesters highlighted the $600 million undocumented New Jersey workers contribute in local taxes, plus the $1 billion they have contributed to the unemployment fund in the last decade, according to a survey by Make the Road New Jersey, an Elizabeth-based group that helps immigrant communities.
“Even undocumented immigrants pay taxes, and I know a lot of people have a hard time believing that,” said David Kallick, director of nonprofit think tank Immigration Research Initiative.
Kallick said undocumented immigrants pay $7 billion nationwide in sales taxes alone.
Undocumented residents file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, a tax processing number for people without Social Security numbers. In New Jersey, 130,000 people file using ITINs.
Kallick said about half of the undocumented immigrants across the country — Pew Research Center estimates the total number exceeds 10 million — file taxes this way. Yet, undocumented immigrants are excluded from taxpayer benefits like unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, child tax credits, and more, Kallick said.
Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration launched a fund last year to help workers excluded from state and federal pandemic aid — largely undocumented immigrants — with more than $40 million still being slowly doled out to more than 30,000 people. The governor has proposed giving $53 million in aid to ITIN filers in his new budget plan.
Nathaly Lopez, who came with her family to Elizabeth from El Salvador when she was 9 years old, said her parents began paying taxes as soon as they arrived in America. Once she got a job, she started paying her taxes, too.
During the pandemic, she was let go from one job. At her other job in a pharmacy, she was scared of getting sick because she had to be around people exposed to COVID-19, she said.
Her family received no money from unemployment or stimulus checks. They applied to the state’s Excluded New Jerseyans Fund and were approved, but like many other families, still have not received any money, she said. The fund provides up to $4,000 per household.
“The federal government and my state seem to be telling me that I’m not worthy of relief,” she said.
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