New York is set to spend $2.1 billion on direct payments of up to $15,600 to illegal immigrants who lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrats in the state legislature approved the "excluded workers fund" as part of the state's $212 billion budget on Tuesday. Roughly 92,000 illegal immigrants are eligible to receive a one-time payment of $15,600 through the program, while hundreds of thousands of others will receive $3,200, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
The move comes after national Democrats failed on their promise to send $2,000 checks to legal Americans, instead settling for $1,400.
The fund has caused turmoil among state Democrats, as five Democrats voted against the budget in the state senate. Progressive lawmakers have since accused moderate Democrats of racism for expressing concern with the taxpayer-funded provision. Brooklyn state senator Jabari Brisport, a self-described socialist who has compared capitalism to slavery, said Monday that he would no longer work with Democratic legislators who "enable racists" by opposing the fund.
New York Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs admonished Brisport, calling the accusations of racism "wrong, plain and simple."
"To assume that one's political disagreement with spending any amount of money—no less $2.1 billion—on a program to give undocumented, non-taxpaying, off-the-book workers a humanitarian grant is motivated by racism and not economics is unjustified, uncalled for, unfair, and unbecoming of any public official elected in a democratic system that survives on the decency of civil public discourse," Jacobs said.
Liberal activists protested outside of Governor Andrew Cuomo's office in the days leading up to the budget passage. The embattled Democratic governor praised the fund for its "compassion" during a Wednesday press conference.
In order to receive the $15,600 payment, illegal immigrants must prove that they reside in the state, are not eligible for federal unemployment due to their legal status, and lost income during the pandemic. New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R.), who announced a gubernatorial run Thursday, criticized the fund for prioritizing "ex cons" and "illegal immigrants" over "hard working" New Yorkers in a Monday tweet.