Immigrants in New Mexico generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and economic activity, a new report says, but a large segment of the population has been left out of federal pandemic aid that could have helped boost local communities.
It’s an obstacle James Jimenez, executive director of the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children, would like to see overcome in the anticipated next wave of COVID-19 relief.
According to the organization’s report, released Thursday to coincide with the Immigrant Day of Action, about 68,000 of New Mexico’s 200,000 immigrants — both undocumented residents and those with legal status — have not been eligible to receive federal aid for a variety of reasons, many because they lack a Social Security number.
The state distributed $5 million in federal CARES Act funding to such residents at the end of 2020, but the money didn’t go far. More than 26,000 eligible people applied for one-time payments of up to $750, state data showed — nearly four times the amount available.
The Voices for Children report estimates nearly $55 million in federal stimulus payments were withheld from 30,000 adults and 38,000 children in the state.
Regardless of a person’s residency status, Jimenez said in an interview Thursday, their local community would benefit if they received the federal aid.
“We know that when aid comes to families, irrespective of their status, they spend it locally,” he said.
“We’re hopeful that Congress and the president will recognize contributions that all immigrants make to New Mexico and the United States economically,” Jimenez added.
About 60,000 undocumented immigrants in New Mexico pay close to $67.7 million annually in state and local taxes, Voices for Children says in its report. When federal taxes are included, the number skyrockets.
“New Mexico’s immigrant population pays a total of $996.1 million in federal, state, and local taxes,” the report says. “The state and local share of those taxes, $393 million, stays here in New Mexico, supporting our public schools, hospitals, roads, and more.”
President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, being considered in the Senate, faced pushback for proposing aid to immigrants without authorization to live in the U.S., in particular the parents of U.S.-born children. Last week, eight Senate Democrats broke rank and voted in favor of an amendment proposed by Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, to prohibit checks to undocumented residents. “Immigrant families are part of the cultural makeup of the country,” Jimenez said. “They should not be swept aside for political reasons.”
Marian Mendez Cera, a workers justice organizer with Albuquerque-based El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, said the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated economic insecurities within immigrant populations.
“We must now take immediate steps to ensure that everything from wages, to workers’ protections, economic relief, and tax rebates are commensurate with our communities’ contributions so that all New Mexicans can thrive,” Mendez Cera said in a statement.