Fact check: House bill would only temporarily protect essential workers in U.S. illegally




  • In Business
  • 2020-05-20 20:17:34Z
  • By USA TODAY
Fact check: House bill would only temporarily protect essential workers in U.S. illegally
Fact check: House bill would only temporarily protect essential workers in U.S. illegally  

The claim: HEROES Act would grant workers in the U.S. illegally amnesty

Democrats introduced the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, known as the HEROES Act, on May 12. The $3 trillion bill proposes increasing unemployment aid, food stamps and small business emergency grants through the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downfall that has followed.

Many Republicans said the bill came too soon after the $2.4 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and would unnecessarily add to the national debt.

The bill, which narrowly passed in the House Friday, is likely to fail in the Senate. President Donald Trump said May 13 that the HEROES Act was "dead on arrival."

Anti-immigration and immigration-reduction groups have criticized the HEROES Act for its Title XII, which includes temporary immigration measures.

The bill would allow workers who are in the country illegally but in jobs the local government deemed "essential critical infrastructure" to pursue protections that would expire 90 days after the public health emergency terminates.

NumbersUSA, a nonprofit research and education foundation that advocates "for lower immigration levels," published an article titled "House Bill Would Grant Amnesty to Illegal Aliens" on May 13.

"House Democrats' prioritizing of foreign workers, legal and illegal, over unemployed and underemployed Americans in the middle of a crisis is shameful," NumbersUSA president and founder Roy Beck said in a statement. "Instead of focusing on helping 33 million unemployed Americans get back to work, the so-called Heroes Act uses the COVID-19 pandemic to give amnesty - and cash payments - to illegal aliens working in the United States."

NumbersUSA's use of the term "amnesty" in the article is misleading. The HEROES Act would only temporarily protect certain immigrant workers.

HEROES Act's temporary protections

The HEROES Act would protect workers in the U.S. illegally in industries local government deemed essential critical infrastructure and their employers. These workers would be shielded from deportation and eligible for federal stimulus funds, for which they are ineligible under the coronavirus relief package.

These protections, which would expire 90 days after the public health emergency ends, would be available only for essential workers who are already in the USA, though illegally.

The bill defines "essential critical infrastructure labor or services" based on the Department of Homeland Security's April 17 memo: "The industries they support represent, but are not limited to, medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works."

The DHS memo is intended as guidance to help jurisdictions decide which industries must continue operating to ensure critical functions in their localities.

Defining 'amnesty'

NumbersUSA Deputy Director Chris Chmielenski told USA TODAY that NumbersUSA is aware that its use of "amnesty" differs from other definitions.

"While many tend to define amnesty as providing a path to citizenship, NumbersUSA defines amnesty as allowing individuals who are illegally present to stay and work in the U.S.," Chmielenski said. "Since most people come to the country illegally to work in the first place, authorizing them to work is a reward for their illegal presence."

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School defines "amnesty" as a pardon for violating immigration policy that leads to permanent residency and lawful employment. "Immigration amnesty would include the government forgiving individuals for using false documentation to gain employment in the U.S. and to remain in the country, and would allow illegal immigrants or undocumented aliens to gain permanent residency in the United States," the Legal Information Institute says.

Chmielenski said NumbersUSA considers the HEROES Act policy amnesty even though it is only temporary.

"The HEROES Act authorizes individuals illegally present and working in certain occupations to stay and work for a period of time, therefore we consider it an amnesty," he said.

NumbersUSA's current use of the term contradicts how the organization has used it in the past. In 2014, NumbersUSA published an article titled "Amnesty Definition."

"The amnesty debate in Congress concerns whether or not illegal aliens should be rewarded by allowing them to escape penalties for their law-breaking and giving them precisely what they broke the laws to obtain: the right to live and work in the United States," the article states. "Any amnesty allow illegal aliens to permanently stay in the United States."

According to its earlier definition, the HEROES Act would not grant amnesty because it would not allow undocumented workers to permanently stay in the country and would not pardon them from future penalties.

Our ruling: Partly false

We rate the claim that House Resolution 6800, known as the HEROES Act, would grant undocumented individuals amnesty as PARTLY FALSE because some of it was not supported by our research. In particular, NumbersUSA's use of the term "amnesty" differs from the legal definition and its own prior definition. It is true that the bill contains some protection for essential workers in the country illegally, but it is misleading to call that protection "amnesty." The HEROES Act would only temporarily grant protection to certain workers, rather than a pardon for violations, permanent residence and employment, as the NumbersUSA article suggests.

Our fact check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Bill temporarily protects essential immigrant workers

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