For many Americans, benefits like expanded unemployment, stimulus checks, and child tax credits were crucial for staying afloat during the pandemic. But those benefits weren’t available to everyone: Undocumented and mixed immigration status families were often excluded from that assistance, or failed to receive the benefits even when they were eligible. Now, a new guaranteed basic income pilot and study in New Mexico will focus solely on those people often left out of traditional relief policies, giving 330 undocumented or mixed immigration status families $500 a month, no strings attached, for twelve months.
The pilot is a joint project between the New Mexico Economic Relief Working Group, a coalition of immigrant and community organizations including the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children and the immigrant rights group Somos un Pueblo Unido, and the Oakland-based nonprofit UpTogether, which gives community members access to cash offers through its online platform and has helped collaborate on previous guaranteed income pilots like on in Sacramento. Funded by philanthropic dollars, including donations from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the pilot will include surveys with recipients and a report on how cash assistance helps undocumented or mixed-status immigrant families.
A recent New Mexico poll of 1,000 Hispanic adults, including nearly 250 immigrants, found that more than half of respondents said they have $1,000 or less saved for financial emergencies, and more than a quarter had gone through that savings, or acquired debt, during the pandemic. Amber Wallin of New Mexico Voices for Children added during a press call that Hispanic New Mexican parents were more than twice as likely as white parents in the state to have lost wages since the pandemic began, and more than three times as likely to be unsure about whether or not they can make their next housing payment.
“We know that immigrant workers, despite disproportionately being on the frontline of those industries that kept the state and the nation going during the pandemic, they’re left out of millions of dollars in economic relief programs,” Wallin says. But there’s reason to hope, she adds, because of the growing body of evidence for two cash assistance can help improve health and economic well-being outcomes, particularly for families with children.
Applications for the guaranteed basic income pilot will close February 11, after which participants will be randomly chosen to participate in the program, with payments beginning March 2022. To be eligible, applicants must be a member of an undocumented or mixed immigrant status family, live in one of 13 chosen New Mexico counties, have one child under 18 years old or an adult dependent with a disability, and have received financial relief from the state’s relief fund or from their city or county.
During the pandemic, the Economic Relief Working Group helped organize some of that relief, including $24 million in government-sponsored cash transfers through programs in Sante Fe, Las Cruces, the state, and more. Sante Fe has been testing its own guaranteed income program in which parents attending community college receive a $400 monthly stipend for a year. Activists and lawmakers are hoping to scale these efforts up statewide, as well.