HUENNEKENS: Nancy Pelosi’s Multi-Billion Dollar Amnesty

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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By a vote of 208-199, the House of Representatives passed HR 6800, the HEROES Act. The HEROES Act is an audacious piece of legislation, which would cost over $3 trillion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi claims that this bill is needed to fight the economic and health crisis wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

But this bill touches on far more than just ventilators and hospital funding. Never the party to let a good crisis go to waste, House Democrats included scores of left-wing priorities. That includes a massive amnesty and bailout for illegal aliens. House Democrats wrote four major provisions into this bill that does everything from shielding aliens from removal to giving them billions of dollars in stimulus money, directly from the Federal treasury.

Stimulus payments to illegal aliens

If the HEROES Act became law, millions of illegal aliens would suddenly find themselves eligible for $1,200 stimulus checks. And not just from the new HEROES Act legislation. They could retroactively collect checks from the CARES Act as well — the stimulus package signed into law by President Trump in late April.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows illegal aliens to pay federal taxes by using  Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN). It is remarkable enough that our government gives illegal aliens ITIN. They will only lackadaisically enforce Federal immigration law, but they are more than eager to collect payroll taxes where they can from illegal aliens. Democrats argue that these specific illegal aliens deserve stimulus checks. These illegal aliens work and pay taxes, why shouldn’t they get stimulus checks?

But the fact remains that they are living here and working here illegally. Why on earth would our Federal government bailout illegal aliens when we could spend that money on anything else? In 2015, 4.35 million people paid taxes using an ITIN. Many of those 4.35 are likely illegal aliens. Even if half of those 4.35 million received stimulus checks from the HEROES Act – and retroactively from the CARES Act — our government would need to dole out $5.2 billion.

De Facto Amnesty

Billions of dollars in personal checks to illegal aliens is just the start of Speaker Pelosi’s stimulus plan. Citing similar “deferred action” language used by President Obama to will DACA into existence, Speaker Pelosi’s HEROES Act would prevent the removal of any illegal alien working in an “essential” industry. Again, on the surface, this seems completely reasonable. But the devil is in the details – who exactly qualifies as an employee in an essential industry?

Speaker Pelosi’s bill cites an April 17 memorandum on critical industries issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In addition to medical staff and first responders, the CISA guidelines include anyone working in any part of the food industry, the construction sector, janitorial staff and other industries that employ illegal aliens. The HEROES Act protects all of these workers from immigration enforcement. Further, the unscrupulous employers who hire these illegal aliens get full immunity from prosecution for the “hiring, employment, or continued employment” of illegal aliens.

Millions of illegal aliens work in the agriculture, construction, janitorial and restaurant industries. Often, these are the only sectors and employers willing to risk hiring these illegal aliens. Over 33 million Americans are out of jobs in these very industries. Why would our Federal government make their job prospects worse by turning a blind eye to illegal aliens competing with them for these roles?

Release of nearly all illegal aliens in ICE detention

Speaker Pelosi’s bill would immediately require the Department of Homeland Security to review the files of all aliens in ICE detention and release only but the most dangerous of detainees. The justification for this is that COVID-19 may spread rapidly in a confined space such as a detention facility. But there is little actual evidence that those in ICE detention face a greater risk of contracting the disease than the general public.

As of May 9, there were 27,908 people in ICE detention. Incredibly, only two people have died from coronavirus in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention and there have been just 1,073 confirmed cases. Art Arthur with the Center for Immigration Studies noted that this means places such as the Bronx and Rockland County in New York have significantly higher rates of infection than ICE detention does. There is simply no evidence to support the claim that ICE detainees are not safe from the disease simply because they are in ICE detention. 

Funding for sanctuary jurisdictions

Speaker Pelosi’s bill gives $300 million in local law enforcement funding, yet specifically protects sanctuary jurisdictions so that they can access this funding. The Trump administration continues withholding some federal grant money to jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Of course, Speaker Pelosi is beholden to her home state and allied jurisdictions — overwhelmingly Democrat — that passed these dangerous sanctuary laws.

At the end of the day, the HEROES Act is trying to accomplish what decades of open borders activists could not — comprehensive immigration reform. This bill has it all! The release of tens of thousands of aliens in ICE detention. Direct stimulus payments to illegal aliens. And the cherry on top – deferred action for millions of illegal aliens working in “critical” industries. Deferred action is an even more cowardly form of amnesty in that politicians sell it to the American people as temporary, only to indefinitely renew it. Just look at our “temporary protected status” (TPS) and “deferred enforced departure” (DED) programs.

This bill is not a serious proposal, but rather a laundry list of Nancy Pelosi’s utopian dreams. That it includes such widespread provisions protecting illegal aliens is a shocking indication of the priorities of the House Democrats. A few billion dollars and an amnesty to boot? The 33 million Americans out of work deserve better.

Preston Huennekens is a government relations associate at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).