‘COVID-19 relief should be regardless of immigration status, citizenship’

Posted on Mar 25 2020

Relief for laid-off workers must be equal regardless of citizenship and immigration status, according to Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP).

As Congress, with the White House, prepare for a third relief bill following the continued spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States, Sablan says that relief afforded to American laid-off workers should also be given to non-U.S. citizens.

In a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sablan proposed for direct cash payments to laid-off workers, stating that this is the most certain and swift measure to maintain household liquidity.

The delegate explained that since there are no unemployment insurance systems in the Pacific U.S. insular areas, the provisions stipulated in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act that help laid-off workers through state unemployment programs is not going to be effective in the Marianas.

Sablan also stated that while the Marianas Department of Labor is experienced with administering Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Dislocated Worker Activities grants to aid workers laid off after a natural disaster, direct cash payments would be more immediately effective.

“Because half the Marianas labor force is non-U.S. citizen, to be fully effective, any relief provided to laid-off workers must be equally available regardless of immigration status or citizenship,” the delegate stated. “Additionally, the acceptance and use of COVID 19- related assistance by non-U.S. citizens should not be a negative factor in subsequent applications for immigration benefits.”

In February, a “public charge” rule took effect, which establishes a test to determine whether an immigrant wanting to extend a visa or convert status into green card is likely to be a public charge. U.S. President Donald J. Trump argued that benefits of American citizens need to be protected, therefore immigrants should be financially self-sufficient.

“My overriding concern is that the sometimes unique circumstances of the Northern Mariana Islands and other U.S. insular areas be fully incorporated in any action taken by the House. Everyone in the insular areas should receive aid equivalent to that provided nationwide,” Sablan stated.

In his e-newsletter, the delegate reiterated that direct payments from the federal government to individuals in America are critical to make up for lost income, as businesses close and lay off workers.

“People need money in their pockets—for the sake of the economy and to take care of their families,” he said.

Iva Maurin | Correspondent
Iva Maurin is a communications specialist with environment and community outreach experience in the Philippines and in California. She has a background in graphic arts and is the Saipan Tribune’s community and environment reporter. Contact her at iva_maurin@saipantribune.com
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