by Betsy McCaughey
Hochul’s support for illegal-immigrant funding suggests she’s no moderate
Newly sworn-in New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is raising questions about what kind of a Democrat she is — the moderate she’s always claimed to be or a radical, vote-buying leftist. On Tuesday, she announced that one of her top priorities is to speed up cash benefits to illegal immigrants under the state’s new $2.1 billion Excluded Workers Fund program.
The program promises low-earning illegal immigrants who claim to have lost a job or experienced a 50 percent drop in earnings because of the pandemic a staggering $15,600 in cash, debit card, or check. Even if they worked off the books and evaded taxes.
In April, when the Legislature voted to create the fund, moderate Democratic lawmakers railed against it. But the Legislature’s far-left majority tarred the moderates as racists and rammed through the program.
The fund also offers a lower-tier payment of $3,200 to illegal immigrants who don’t claim to have lost income but missed out on federal stimulus checks because of their illegal status.
All these giveaways were supposed to start flowing when the application process opened on Aug. 2. But advocates complain that because many illegal immigrants work off the books and don’t pay taxes, they can’t prove they’re entitled to the $15,600. Advocates like Bianca Guerrero of the nonprofit Make the Road New York want the state to waive the paperwork and accept an applicant’s sworn statement that he’s entitled to the dough.
In case you’re not laughing yet, consider this: Immigrants who lied to get into the country, then cheated again by working off the books are supposed to be taken at their word when they claim they’re entitled to $15,600 in free money.
On Tuesday, Hochul itemized her administration’s top priorities: One is hurrying out long-delayed federal rent relief. Another: She wants to get money out “with the same intensity” to illegal immigrants hoping to tap into the Excluded Workers Fund.
Migrants attempting to cross into the US from Mexico are detained at the border in Arizona. Getty Images
“They’re hurting, and they’re part of the New York family, and I’m going to make that very clear.” Translation: Noncitizens who shouldn’t even be here deserve taxpayer-funded benefits, just like anybody else.
That viewpoint is shared by many far-left Democrats, but not by moderates from Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Hochul’s own turf in Western New York. Even Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, in a struggle to mend the party rift last April, chastised progressives, noting that it’s not racism to question a “program to give undocumented, nontaxpaying, off-the-books workers a humanitarian grant.”
Hochul plans to run for governor next year. To win the Democratic primary, she needs left-wing voters. By stressing support for the fund, she’s playing to the left flank of her party and working to build political support in New York City: Of the 290,000 illegal immigrants expected to collect money from the fund, two-thirds are in Gotham, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.
It may look like good politics, but it’s bad for New York state. The fund legitimizes lawbreaking and an off-the-books shadow economy. And the sheer size of the giveaways adds to the Empire State’s reputation as the place to go if you’re in the country illegally and need public benefits. New York’s not just a sanctuary state; it’s already a magnet state, and the fund sends a clear message: “Come on in, the money’s fine.” No other state offers anything close to what New York is offering.
Meanwhile, law-abiding New Yorkers are paying the price. The state budget slaps new taxes on high earners and big businesses, hitting Big Apple residents with the highest city and state combined tax burden in the nation. If Hochul wants to lead a revival of the state, high taxes to fund record-breaking handouts to illegal immigrants are not the way to go.
On Wednesday, Hochul described herself as a “Biden Democrat.” Let’s hope she doesn’t mean cognitively impaired. If she means a moderate, Biden isn’t one, and Hochul’s support for the fund suggests she might not be one, either.
Dr. Betsy McCaughey is the former Lt. Governor of New York. She earned her Ph.D. in History at Columbia University. Dr. McCaughey is a fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute and Hudson Institute thinktanks and has written numerous articles and op-eds.