Swing State Dem Wanted Illegal Immigrants To Receive Taxpayer-Funded COVID Relief

Sue Altman now says 'the border is a crisis'—but blames Republicans

Sue Altman (Facebook)
April 19, 2024

Before she ran for Congress, Sue Altman (D., N.J.) wanted illegal immigrants to receive taxpayer-funded COVID relief funds. Now, Altman says it’s Republicans' fault that the border crisis—which has exploded during President Joe Biden’s administration—hasn’t been solved.

Altman, the presumptive Democratic nominee for New Jersey’s hotly contested Seventh Congressional District, called to make illegal immigrants eligible for financial COVID relief during her time as state director of the progressive New Jersey Working Families Party.

Altman appeared in an October 2020 interview on a show called "Activista Rise Up" with Patricia Campos-Medina, who is now a long shot Democratic candidate for Senate in New Jersey. There, Altman shared her support for illegal immigrants and their children during the COVID-19 pandemic and called on state and federal governments to give stimulus checks to those who were "cut out" of other financial relief programs during the economic shutdown.

"One of the biggest problems with the federal budget and the state budget is that immigrants have been cut out. Immigrants or undocumented people who were paying taxes as workers since, you know, they started working here in the United States or in New Jersey aren’t getting any aid or any relief from these deals that are going to other folks. These people are the backbone of our economy," Altman said. "We need to be just as serious about helping them recover from this pandemic as we are every other resident of this state and this country."

As a candidate, Altman has taken aim at Republicans for not taking action on the border. In February, she described the southern border as a "crisis" and scolded her opponent Rep. Tom Kean Jr. (R., N.J.) and other Republicans for not doing more to solve the problem. Immigration doesn’t appear under the "issues" page on Altman’s campaign website.

"There was a bill in Congress in the Senate that went through that Tom Kean Jr. did not support because the Republicans didn’t support it because they’re not really looking to solve problems. And that’s the difference. When I get to Congress, and what I’ve done my entire career, is fight for change and fight for things that will make people’s lives better," Altman said in February.

Altman concluded, "Yes, the border is a crisis. Yes it’s a problem. The solution will need an entire Congress to fix it, and we can’t have people being cynically obstructionist because they have political ambitions."

Republicans opposed the bill because it was "riddled with loopholes" and endorsed Biden’s "catch and release" policy, according to a statement from House Republican leadership including House Speaker Mike Johnson (R., La.), Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), and majority whip Tom Emmer (R., Minn.). Republicans argued the bill was a "waste of time" because it would expand work authorization for illegal immigrants, failed to include critical asylum reforms, and left taxpayers with the bill for the flights and housing of illegal immigrants at Federal Emergency Management Agency shelters.

Altman is challenging Kean Jr. in his tight reelection campaign. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in March named Altman to their "Red to Blue Program" that names her race as one of the most competitive in the country.

The Working Families Party also advocated for financial relief for illegal immigrants under Altman’s direction. In a July 2020 post, the party touted an encampment formed at the New Jersey state house in protest in favor of "recovery for all" from the pandemic's economic downturn. The party also linked to information for residents to lobby legislators to "bring COVID relief legislation that will provide stimulus-like payments to undocumented immigrant taxpayers for a vote."

"We stand with immigrant families who are fighting for aid. NJ should fund excluded workers, not billionaires," the party wrote.

The party kept fighting for COVID relief for illegal immigrants into 2021.

"We need a #Recovery4All that includes immigrant families & workers. We urge @GovMurphy @NJSenatePres @SpeakerCoughlin to create a pandemic relief fund for ALL. Don’t leave immigrants behind!" the party wrote in a February 2021 post. "More than half a million undocumented immigrants and their 128,000 U.S. citizen children have been excluded from any form of COVID aid. No unemployment, no $1,200 stimulus, no $600 stimulus."

Altman was also a critic of the Immigration and Customs Control (ICE) during the pandemic. The party and Altman slammed Hudson County officials who reinstated ICE’s contract to hold detainees in its county jails. The contract was slated to bring in $8 million for the county in its first year.

"The Hudson County Board of Commissioners represented New Jersey politics at its worst last night … and approved a new contract that continues the county’s sorry history of complicity with the worst of our nation’s immigration policies," Altman said. "The people of Hudson County deserve a local Democratic Party that is in step with the mainstream, national Democratic Party fighting for the interests of immigrants and people of color—and not one that prioritizes profits over the clear will of their constituents."

Altman did not return a request for comment.