Advocates want more protections for Colorado’s immigrants amid pandemic

Immigrant advocates are working with Colorado lawmakers to provide relief to vulnerable families during the coronavirus crisis.

Activists from the Colorado People’s Alliance are asking state leaders to provide cash assistance for undocumented workers who are not eligible for benefits. They also want immigrant detention facilities held accountable, and immigrant and other populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19 included in all worker protection provisions.

“While Colorado has come a long way thanks to the work of immigrants, immigrant families like mine are still constantly left behind and harmed by our state and nation’s policies,” said Aurora resident Cristina Lopez, a member of the Colorado People’s Alliance, in a statement. “This has always been true, but the COVID-19 crisis is exposing these issues more than ever.”

The federal government didn’t provide stimulus checks to U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants without Social Security numbers.

Lawmakers haven’t developed bills to address all of the concerns, but they say they’re working to figure out how to provide some relief.

Sen. Julie Gonzales, a Denver Democrat, is working on a bill to expand the state’s earned income tax credit to include immigrants who live in the country illegally but pay taxes. The income tax credit helps reduce taxes for those in qualifying income brackets.

“What we’re trying to navigate right now is that we include all taxpayers regardless of their citizenship status and provide relief to Coloradans who got cut out and left behind by the federal economic recovery assistance,” she said.

Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, a Commerce City Democrat, is co-sponsoring a bill with House Majority Leader Alec Garnett that calls for giving the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment the authority to inspect facilities that house immigrants, including the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center run by the GEO Group in Aurora and the Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health’s migrant children’s shelter in Westminster.

“We don’t have a handle on it at all from the state perspective,” Benavidez said.

Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont is working on a couple of bills targeted at helping underserved populations, including one that would allow people who’ve received a program violation for one type of assistance program not to be banned from all types of public assistance.

“In a public health crisis, I always tell people we’re only as healthy as our sickest neighbor,” he said.

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