Monday, April 27, 2020
US Endangers Other Countries by Deporting People With the Coronavirus
Countries around the world that still have few coronavirus cases are bracing themselves for the spread of the pandemic. Many have restricted international arrivals to prevent a surge in cases like the one in the United States, which they would not have the resources to fight. Meanwhile, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to deport infected people to these countries.
ICE Deports Immigrants Infected with the Coronavirus to Guatemala
Guatemala has been at the forefront of the response to these deportation flights. The country was receiving U.S. flights of Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers under an asylum cooperative agreement. Guatemala halted that program in March in reaction to the pandemic.
Hesitation to accept the flights stems from fears that many of the more than 30,000 people in ICE custody have contracted the virus. Social distancing is largely impossible in detention facilities where detained individuals are forced to sleep in crowded unsanitary conditions with little access to medical care, soap, or hand sanitizer.
ICE’s Failure to Test for the Coronavirus
As of April 22, ICE confirmed that 287 people in its custody had tested positive for the coronavirus. However, ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence recently stated that ICE has only tested 400 people, or approximately 1% of those in its custody. This likely means that other detained individuals have unconfirmed cases of COVID-19. If deported, these people can then spread the virus to their home countries.
Monday, April 20, 2020
The Facts About the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)
Stimulus checks were sent by the federal government this week. However, millions of immigrants who pay billions in taxes were left out if they paid through the Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), rather than a Social Security number.
The Supreme Court could make a decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as soon as this week. For over two decades, lawmakers have introduced policies to protect young undocumented immigrants.
What is an ITIN?
It was created for tax purposes. The ITIN program was created by the IRS in July 1996 so that foreign nationals and other individuals who are not eligible for a Social Security number (SSN) can pay the taxes they are legally required to pay.
ITINs are not SSNs. The ITIN is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, for example 9XX-7X-XXXX.
Many immigrants have ITINs. People who do not have a lawful status in the United States may obtain an ITIN. In addition, the following people are lawfully in the country and must pay taxes but may not be eligible for a SSN and may obtain an ITIN:
A non-resident foreign national who owns or invests in a U.S. business and receives taxable income from that U.S. business, but lives in another country.
A foreign national student who qualifies as a resident of the United States (based on days present in the United States).
A dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
A dependent or spouse of a foreign national on a temporary visa.
Monday, April 13, 2020
Shortage of Farmworkers Threatens Americans’ Food Supply During the Coronavirus
The U.S. agricultural industry depends on seasonal guest workers to produce the food Americans eat. Since 1986, the H-2A visa program has allowed employers to fill labor shortages with temporary and seasonal workers from other countries.
The Trump administration recently classified agricultural employees as “essential critical infrastructure workers” during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). At the same time, the pandemic is complicating the guest worker application process. This in turn threatens farmers’ ability to provide the food we serve on our tables.
Last month, the State Department announced that it would pause the processing of all new H-2A applications because they require an in-person interview at a U.S. consulate.
The State Department began limiting their services in all countries with a level 2, 3, or 4 Travel Advisory due to the coronavirus. The State Department issues these warnings when it’s considered dangerous to travel to certain countries.
As a result, the consulate in Mexico—where many seasonal farmworkers are from—is currently unable to process H-2A applications.
The government took some measures to compensate for the setback.
Visa processing continued in countries without travel warnings. Interviews for certain returning workers were waived. For the first time, the Department of Labor committed to helping workers finishing their seasonal contract with one farm to transfer immediately to another farm. Normally, H-2A workers can only work for the employer who petitioned for them.
Still, thousands of positions remain at risk of going unfilled. Mexico is home to more than half of H-2A workers. About half of those are new applicants, and most are issued in the spring months.
Monday, April 6, 2020
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
Many Immigrant Families Won’t Receive Direct Payments
Millions of immigrant families across the United States will not benefit from the $2 trillion in COVID-19 relief money contained in the package. It provides direct payments on a sliding scale of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, depending on income and immigration status.
Only those with a Social Security number who have a green card or are “resident aliens” will qualify. This includes people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS). But many people who meet these prerequisites will still be disqualified from receiving cash payments if they have a spouse or child who does not have a valid Social Security number.
The impact will be significant. Many mixed status families will be disqualified from receiving payments from the government. They can be excluded even if the head of household has status in the United States and is paying taxes.
Recent estimates indicate that 16.7 million people live with at least one unauthorized family member. This includes approximately 5.1 million U.S. citizen children under the age of 18.
While most unauthorized immigrants don’t have valid Social Security numbers, many still pay federal, state, and local income taxes by using an Individual Tax Identifying Number.