February 5, 2024
Washington State Created A Fund For Immigrants During The Pandemic That Upset Conservatives
Winfree’s comments reflect the Republican Party's general panic around immigration, and immigrants themselves.
In 2020, the State of Washington created a fund to assist immigrants who were unable to be assisted via the Federal government’s Covid-19 relief efforts. According to the Washington Covid-19 Immigrant Relief Fund website, the program was intended to address what was seen as an oversight. $400 million was used to assist more than 100,000 immigrants with Covid relief as a result of the efforts of multiple immigrant grassroots groups in Washington state.
The groups began by raising $6 million independently before getting Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to create a state fund. Following those efforts, the Governor’s office and the Department of Social and Health Services created the Immigrant Relief Fund in 2020. Those who were approved after an application process eventually received between $1,000-$3,000 as either a paper check or a prepaid card to be used for their expenses. According to officials who worked on the fund, approximately 223,000 immigrants were approved for the funds. The fund closed in 2023.
Now, as Fox News reports, a conservative watchdog group is criticizing the program’s existence, saying that since the funds came from the federal government, the Biden Administration essentially subsidized the fund. Paul Winfree, the president and CEO of the Economic Policy Innovation Center, told Fox News, “The Senate is releasing a budget supplemental that includes a bipartisan deal on the border. However, the administration has been actively encouraging illegal immigration by using COVID money from the SLFRF to provide cash assistance, housing, legal aid, and other benefits to undocumented immigrants.” Winfree continued, “Until Congress claws back this money, it will continue to serve as a magnet for illegal immigration.”
Winfree’s comments reflect the Republican Party’s general panic around immigration and immigrants themselves. The report closes by making a rather strange request, tying together border security spending and emergency funds for Israel. “Congress would be wise to stop the waste and abuse in the Bidenomics Slush Fund, turn off the spending spigot subsidizing undocumented immigration, and use the rescinded budget authority to pay for its other priorities like emergency spending for Israel and real border security.”
Republicans seem to be taking their cues from Donald Trump on immigration, who faced criticism for echoing Hitler in December 2023 after saying that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” However, as The Guardian reported, the Republican Party has basically fallen in line with their leader, as not long after that, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a controversial law allowing the police to arrest anyone they suspect of being an immigrant. Meanwhile, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said in a December appearance on NBC’s Meet The Press, “I could care less what language people use as long as we get it right … I think the president has a way of talking sometimes I disagree with. But he actually delivered on the border.”
Activists like Maria Teresa Kumar, president and chief executive of Voto Latino, understand the danger in that kind of rhetoric. Kumar told The Guardian via email: “Trump may say the quiet parts loud, but he’s far from alone…Today, we see elected Republicans use rhetoric and policies for political expediency at the cost of unification. There is no doubt that we are living in a multicultural democracy – the first in history. Instead of embracing this superpower that will serve us well on the world stage, they choose division that hurts millions of fellow citizens.”
Kumar continued, “Right now, extremists have taken the issue hostage, and they are making a commonsense solution impossible. The current immigration debate is way out of step with where Americans are on the issue, and I expect this will drive Latinos and moderates to the polls in 2024.”