At Valverde Law, we believe a U.S. citizen is no less a U.S. citizen and entitled to all rights and benefits under the law, even if married to an undocumented spouse. An estimated 16.7 million people live in mixed immigration-status households, meaning they have a spouse or a dependent who is an undocumented immigrant.
None of those households were able to receive the $1,200 stimulus check given by the federal government after the CARES Act was passed.
Now, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is suing the Trump Administration on behalf of six plaintiffs who argue that the Cares Act “discriminates against mixed-status couples because it treats them differently than other married couples, in violation of the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment guarantees of equal protection and due process.”
Advocates from Georgetown Law and Villanova Law also filed a class action lawsuit in Maryland federal court on Wednesday challenging the CARES Act on behalf of seven US citizen children of unauthorized immigrant taxpayers.
So why haven't some U.S citizens received their stimulus checks?
The Cares Act excludes those in mixed immigration-status households, where tax filers or their children may use what's called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Unauthorized immigrants do not have social security numbers, so the government gives them ITINs so they can pay taxes, which has always confounded many. Why does the government say you cannot work illegally but at the same time say if you do work illegally you must pay taxes with an ITIN?
Undocumented immigrants pay an estimated collective
$11.74 billion to state and federal taxes each year. Yet even with this massive contribution to taxes, under the Cares Act, if anyone in a household used an ITIN – either a spouse or dependent child – no one in the household qualified for a stimulus check unless one spouse served in the military in 2019.
Most married couples file taxes jointly because of the tax benefits, but in this case couples with mixed-immigration statuses had no idea that filing taxes jointly last year would exclude them from benefits that the rest of the country has been receiving. Many mixed status families in Virginia Beach and the surrounding Hampton Roads area have been affected by this exclusion and did not receive the much needed stimulus checks distributed by the government.
Lawyers representing these lawsuits argue that by excluding people with ITIN numbers from the stimulus checks, the government is punishing U.S. citizens and depriving them of fundamental constitutional rights.
The Cares Act was passed by Congress rather quickly, and it appears that some members of Congress were not even aware of the way that it excluded mixed immigration-status families. Senator Marco Rubio (R – FL) told Telemundo last week that he was unaware that U.S. citizens married to undocumented immigrants were denied assistance. Rubio said that he would like to intervene, and stated that “Somebody doesn't lose their citizenship or their rights as a citizen because they're married to somebody who doesn't have documents.” We fully agree with Senator Rubio's common-sense assessment.
We will be watching closely to see who the next coronavirus relief package includes, and does not include, and will be updating you as to the status of these lawsuits.
For some options on what you can do if you did not receive a check, read out our follow up post here. To connect with others affected by this issue, you may want to join "Mixed Status Families United," a Facebook group whose members are that covers of many of today's lawsuits fighting against the discrimination in the CARES Act, and working on current resolutions for future relief. You can visit the Facebook group here.