Immigration

New York Is about to Pay $2.1 Billion to Illegal Aliens

New York State Capitol in Albany (lavendertime/Getty Images)
The state is set to waste a massive amount of money encouraging more prospective migrants to break the law.

The New York state legislature has recently made two fiscal decisions of note. The first — raising taxes on millionaires — is no surprise. The second, however, is virtually unprecedented: The state will make $2.1 billion in government funding available to illegal aliens, who will be eligible to receive as much as $15,600 each.

One should bear in mind that all illegal migrants (a.k.a. undocumented workers) take jobs that citizens and green-card holders should have and, by accepting low wages and bad working conditions, make life miserable for American citizens. In a nation where 10 million citizens are unemployed, one cannot argue that these aliens are needed workers.

The payments offer two different kinds of incentives for illegal migrants to stay in New York or move there from other states: the unexpected additional income and the implicit signal that the state government has no problem with their presence. Specifically, the New York Times reports that there is an apparent agreement among the state’s legislators to include in a huge spending bill provisions that, in effect, will divide the illegal aliens into three groups:

  1. A top group of 92,000 “Excluded Workers” who will be eligible for the $15,600 windfall mentioned above;
  2. A middle group, totaling about 199,000, who will be eligible for $3,200 each; and
  3. A third group of maybe 200,000, who won’t be eligible for any money.

In other words, although all employed or once-employed illegal aliens are equal in most states, in New York some are more equal than others.

The press has not noted the wildly different levels of benefits, or the fact that something like a third of this population will get nothing at all. (The 92,000 and 199,000 estimates are from the left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), while the 200,000 estimate comes from subtracting 290,000 from 490,000, which is the FPI’s estimate of the entire undocumented-worker population in the state.)

The elite group is to be identified by a negative distinction: They were (appropriately) denied the federal $300/week extra unemployment-insurance benefits offered as part of Congress’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic but can produce some proof of losing their jobs due to the epidemic and have filed at least one income-tax return with a U.S. Treasury-issued Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), which is given only to people who are not authorized to work.

What happens in the not-uncommon case that an illegal alien has used a Social Security Number (SSN) to file income-tax returns? To put it another way: How does an undocumented worker document to the state that he or she is eligible for the $15,600?

In an awesomely detailed description, Bklyner.com lists at least 30 different public and private documents that can be used in different combinations to prove an alien’s identity, to show that the alien was a resident of the state at the right time, and that the alien has worked in the state and lost a job due to COVID-19. The description is more than 700 words long. One item in the great laundry list of documents is an American passport. How one could have such a document and be an illegal migrant is not explained.

When it comes to the top “excluded workers” group, the legislature has either imposed a heavy decision-making burden on state unemployment-insurance offices or, more likely, it has allowed the state labor commissioner to define “other suitable documents” as broadly as possible, giving the vast majority of applicants benefits at one level or the other. We will see. As for the middle group — those entitled to receive $3,200 — the eligibility rules have apparently not yet been written.

But we should not be discussing these administrative issues at all: The fact is that no government should provide people a monetary incentive for illegal behavior.

New York is the first to provide such an incentive on a massive scale, but California created a similar, much smaller program last year, to which the state contributed $75 million and private charities another $50 million. That program offered $500 payments, doled out on a first-come, first-served basis, to illegal-alien applicants. Maryland also has a small-scale program to expand its earned-income tax credit to those who file with an ITIN rather than an SSN.

The only way that the “Excluded Worker” program might make sense is if New York added one more requirement: that the checks only be presented to the alien as he or she lands at an airport after being deported home, and after signing a document promising not to seek to reenter the U.S. for the next ten years.

As it stands now, New York is set to waste a massive amount of money encouraging more prospective migrants to come to the state illegally, at a further cost to law-abiding American citizens.

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