Despite paying more than $1 billion in federal taxes and $600 million in state and local taxes, thousands of New Jersey workers and their children have been shut out of any pandemic relief since spring because they are in this country illegally, according to advocacy groups,

As the state with the fourth highest percent of undocumented workers — 7.6% of its labor force — those workers have paid more than a billion dollars into the state’s unemployment fund over a decade but have never received any money back, Make the Road New Jersey’s Deyanira Aldana said during an online town hall on Thursday.

In New Jersey, it's estimated that more than 604,000 people, including over 262,500 U.S. citizens, live with at least one undocumented family member, Aldana said.

While the second federal stimulus payments passed in December did include some "mixed-status" households, in which U.S. citizens are married to immigrants here illegally, there are U.S. citizen children still left out from current aid.

About 52,000 New Jerseyans who are undocumented immigrants are married to U.S. citizens and roughly 128,000 U.S. citizen children have at least one undocumented parent, according to Make the Road NJ.

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Under state legislation first proposed in May, the state would provide up to $1,000 in cash assistance to immigrants who use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to pay taxes. The system has been available by the IRS since the mid ‘90s.

Many of those immigrants paying taxes via ITIN are in the country illegally.

The pending bill – S2480/A4171 – would require the state Department of the Treasury to issue a one-time payment to ITIN filers, giving priority to families with children.

Payments would be $1,000 to taxpayers who listed at least one dependent child on their most recent tax return, $700 for married filers without a dependent child and $500 for other taxpayers, at a collective cost of $35 million to the state.

“You pay income taxes — into the state and federal system — and the benefits are not there,” Assemblywoman Carol Murphy, D-Burlington, said during the event, noting that she was looking forward to trying to make the legislation work, including conversation at upcoming budget hearings.

Amy Torres, director for New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, also participated in the town hall, urging the state to consider acting to “lift the burden” off of communities on the brink of financial ruin amid the public health crisis.

The remote town hall included comments from a state resident, Banessa, who had been unemployed for at least three months when COVID-19 first arrived. The woman said she now works four days a week cleaning houses, as families continue to deal with the threat of the virus transmission.

She had to arrange payment plans and has been behind on bills. Banessa said she pays taxes, but hasn't qualified for any economic relief during the public health emergency.

Advocacy groups and nonprofits have been calling for relief since spring to help New Jersey's most vulnerable workers, including unauthorized immigrants, who can't access government assistance during the pandemic.

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