Immigrant workers and allies staged a “car-caravan” protest outside a number of government buildings on Friday, in which they urged Gov. Steve Sisolak to establish a state sponsored fund in support of immigrant workers and families who have been excluded from federal coronavirus crisis assistance.
Circling the Grant Sawyer Building parking lot about 100 vehicles adorned with multi-colored balloons and protest signs blared their horns in unison.
The protesters, which included members of the Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center, the TPS Committee of Nevada, and Red de Apoyo Mutuo de Nevada, say that unless and until Congress fixes provisions of the CARES Act that left immigrant families behind, the state government needs to step up to support immigrants who have lost jobs and wages as a result of COVID-19, many of whom are struggling to get by.
In honor of International Workers’ Day, they called on Sisolak to launch an “Immigrant Worker Safety Net Fund” through the Office of New Americans, which would be used to create a stimulus package for immigrant workers who have not been included in federal stimulus packages.
“In this crisis, there is no ‘them.’ There is only us. For everyone’s safety, for our health, for our economy, and for our safety, all immigrants must have access to life-saving assistance. Without exceptions,” said Walter Martinez, a member of the Culinary Union Local 226 and a TPS holder, who has worked various jobs in casinos over the last 20 years after immigrating to the United States from El Salvador.
Federal bills have excluded those without legal status, as well as “mixed-status families”, meaning family whose members include people with different citizenship or immigration statuses.
The CARES Act, a $2 trillion dollar spending package, authorized the payments of up to $1,200 in coronavirus stimulus money but excluded those who filed taxes jointly with an immigrant who doesn’t have a Social Security number. For example, if a spouse with a valid Social Security number files taxes with a partner who uses ITIN — an individual taxpayer identification number — the couple will not qualify for any relief payments.
According to the IRS both people on a tax return must have Social Security numbers in order for either to receive a stimulus check, including the $500 per child that is helping cash-strapped families cover expenses during the pandemic.
Miguel Barahona, a TPS holder and laid off convention worker, recently learned that he would be denied a stimulus check because he has filed taxes with his spouse who does not have a social security number.
“Many TPS holders, Dreamers, and even U.S citizens are married with spouses that have no social security number so I believe this is very unjust and we need to be represented by our governor,” said Batahona. “ We need to fix this.”
Barahona, a father of three, said if it wasn’t for social services provided by churches and his union, UNITE HERE Bartenders Local 165, he doesn’t know how he would have managed.
“If it wasn’t for them I would have been in a real problem,” Barahona said.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a national civil rights advocacy group is suing the Trump administration on behalf of U.S. citizens denied government stimulus payments because they have filed with undocumented immigrants, calling it unconstitutional.
Protesters, who were made up of immigrant workers, domestic workers, day laborers, construction workers, and service workers, emphasized that undocumented workers make up ten percent of the Nevada workforce, including essential workers and construction workers who are holding up the Nevada economy while risking their health and the health of their families.
“Nevada depends on our labor, even now during the state of emergency,” said Cuahtemoc Sanchez, a construction worker who is still working, and a volunteer coordinator with the Red de Apoyo Mutuo de Las Vegas. “We have built this network to care for each other, delivering food, sharing invaluable resources, and supporting our community. Our community is vulnerable, and has been excluded. We need the state to honor our contributions, accept us as essential, and include us in COVID19 relief efforts.”
Immigrant workers also protested outside the Federal Building on South Las Vegas Boulevard, calling on Nevada’s congressional delegation to make the inclusion of undocumented immigrants in federal COVID-19 response efforts a priority.
“We must take care of our communities in Nevada, ensuring that all immigrant workers have access to unemployment, other emergency relief funds and cash assistance. Because undocumented workers are essential workers” Martinez said.
Democratic members of Congress, including those from Nevada, have called for the next coronavirus relief legislation to include assistance for those who were left out of the CARES Act.