Immigrant Organizations Slam Murphy’s Budget Proposal: ‘Essential But Excluded’

The room at today's immigration hearing.

A coalition of immigrants rights organizations slammed Governor Murphy’s FY2021 revised budget over  a lack of relief aid, saying ‘we are essential but excluded’.

The groups, usually key allies of the Governor’s, issued the follow statements:

“Today Governor Murphy sends a message to the half million undocumented immigrant workers and our families that we are expendable. I worked at a food processing plant during the pandemic until I became sick with COVID. Because of my status, I’m ineligible for unemployment, stimulus or food stamps, despite paying taxes every year. Imagine trying to survive and feed your family for nearly five months with no paycheck and no aid? You applaud essential workers, but we don’t need your praise. We need income to keep our families alive. We are essential but excluded. We can’t be Jersey strong if we leave more than a half a million of us behind,” said Felix Gallardo, member of Make the Road NJ.

Maneesha Kelkar, Interim Director of New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice said: “New Jersey’s recovery from the pandemic will not be fully achieved without essential immigrant workers who are at the frontlines as healthcare workers, care providers, and warehouse, grocery store, and agriculture workers. Yet, thousands of New Jersey’s immigrant families and workers have not received any unemployment benefits or COVID19 relief, despite paying into these programs. We are seeing the toll on our families who are struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. New Jersey must acknowledge immigrant contributions and act to ensure immigrant families can live with dignity in the Garden state.”

“It is disappointing that Gov Murphy has failed and left immigrant communities behind.  There is evidence of the importance of including everyone so that we have a recovery in every city in the Garden State. We encourage our legislators to choose equality over oppression. We demand the inclusion of all workers in the budget and in the COVID recovery plan,” said Rosanna Rodríguez, Laundry Workers Center.

“It is incredibly disappointing to know that our state’s leadership has once again forgotten immigrant communities in its COVID-19 recovery efforts. Each day our leaders fail to act, means that more and more families will have to choose between paying for food or  paying their bills. New Jersey’s immigrant communities have been at the front lines of COVID-19 since the beginning, they deserve to be acknowledge and included in financial relief programs,” said Itzel Hernandez, Immigrant Rights Organizer for American Friends Service Committee.

“Our state, both residents and government, has done a better job than many to address the COVID-19 crisis. But in a pandemic which affects us all, none of us can be left out. We, the working, essential, often undocumented but always American core of New Jersey, have been overlooked and looked down on today. But it is our leaders who should be feeling shame,” Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center.

New Jersey’s nearly half million undocumented immigrants are a critical labor and economic engine in New Jersey and have been some of the most hard hit by COVID. Undocumented immigrants in New Jersey pay approximately $600 million in state and local taxes each year and more than $1 billion in federal taxes. Over the past ten years, undocumented immigrants have paid approximately $1.2 billion into the unemployment system despite being ineligible for aid. Many undocumented immigrants work in essential professions, like warehouses, health care and cleaning. Immigrant organizations have called on the state to provide $600 weekly payments for excluded workers and stimulus like payments to undocumented immigrants and their US citizen family excluded from stimulus payments.

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