New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is considering allocating federal funds to provide about $40 million in one-time stimulus payments to the state’s undocumented immigrants.
According to Politico, Murphy’s representatives raised the figure during a conference call with immigration advocates on Tuesday.
However, advocates said that the funding that would be materialized through the remaining federal CARES dollars does not represent a sufficient sum for advocates who point to larger relief measures, such as $2,000 in direct stimulus payments to individuals and $600 in unemployment-like benefits.
The $40 million proposal comes as the state legislative Latino caucus urged Murphy last week to unilaterally create $2,000 stimulus payments and $600 in unemployment-like benefits for undocumented residents.
Federal stimulus money
Murphy had expressed support of relief measures for undocumented immigrants in recent weeks, stating at a recent press briefing that he was considering using federal stimulus money to fund such a program, although he did not provide specifics at the time.
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Advocates said it was not enough to provide real help to the state’s nearly half-million undocumented immigrants. But administrative sources noted that the amount offered is similar to what is in a bill that has failed to move in the Legislature.
The New Jersey governor, speaking at an unrelated press conference Wednesday, acknowledged the private debate and said he was still working through his options, including tapping federal aid.
A challenging journey
“We are trying very much if not desperately to find a good solution here and I’m confident we can find one,” Murphy said. “Unless we bring all of us along, we will not find our way through this challenging journey.”
A senior Murphy administration official said that ordering an executive action with federal stimulus dollars may be the only way to deliver cash to undocumented immigrants. Using state dollars would require the Legislature’s approval and that route could be politically perilous the bill introduced last year which appropriated a similar amount for undocumented residents has yet to receive a committee hearing.
That official said more money could be allocated through the American Rescue Plan, although Murphy’s office is awaiting federal guidance on whether that tranche of federal stimulus money could be used for undocumented immigrants. The official noted that they are bound to the roughly $40 million figure since it would be coming from CARES money, which is running low.
Immigration advocates frustrated
Gov. Murphy has been a political ally of immigration advocates, vowing that New Jersey would become a “sanctuary state” and making driver’s licenses available to undocumented immigrants. But immigrant groups have become increasingly frustrated. They claim that their calls for relief have been largely ignored.
The current proposal would be applicable mainly to ITIN filers, undocumented immigrants who file taxes with the IRS. People must show they were impacted by the coronavirus to receive CARES funds, according to the administration official. It remains to be determined how much would be allotted per person, or when payments would be distributed. Meanwhile, logistical hurdles remain on how to provide the direct cash payments.