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Coronavirus: Undocumented Workers’ Rights in Five Questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequent questions we received from our readers about undocumented worker's rights during the coronavirus, answered by attorneys from Make the Road NY.

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The coronavirus pandemic has cost many undocumented workers their jobs. We took questions from our WhatsApp community to labor experts from Make The Road to find out what rights undocumented workers have during this time.

1. I don’t have papers, but I pay my taxes and I have a Tax ID (ITIN). Do I qualify for unemployment insurance and cash announced by the federal government?

Answer: No. To get federal aid you need a social security number, which can only be obtained with proper papers. You cannot apply for unemployment insurance either since it requires a valid work permit.

2. What help do I qualify for? 

Answer: If you are undocumented but have work authorization, you must be screened for unemployment insurance eligibility. For example, DACA beneficiaries are eligible for unemployment if they are currently authorized to work. If work permits expire or are terminated, they are no longer eligible. 

On the other hand, if you do not have papers or DACA, here we leave you some funds and aid to which you can apply:

  • Our guide and resources for immigrants affected by Coronavirus

3. Are there government funds that you give to people who are not going to work on the COVID issue? Will they apply to undocumented migrants?

Answer: Currently, there are no government funds for people who are not going to work just because of the COVID issue.

However, they may be eligible for sick pay if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID or are under a preventive quarantine order or need to take time off from work to care for a person sick with COVID or a child whose school or daycare has closed for reasons related to COVID. All workers are entitled to sick pay regardless of immigration status. Workers who need this sick leave should be screened for eligibility.

4. Are undocumented people also entitled to paid family leave?

Answer: Yes, immigration status does not matter. Regarding New York State, regular family leave, if you’re working off the books you can still apply for state family leave. If you are eligible, the state will pay you and then bill your employers.

Regarding the federal emergency family leave that was approved in March 2020, you can take this leave if you have to take care of a child whose school is closed due to the coronavirus and therefore you cannot work. Your employer has to pay for this permit directly.

5. If parents pay taxes with an ITIN, but the children are citizens, will they receive the $1,200 stimulus checks from the federal government?

Answer: From the information that we have been able to collect, in mixed-status families (when some are documented and others are not), it could be that no one in the family will receive the money.

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