CARES Act policy prevents some Americans married to non-citizens from getting stimulus payments
Millions of American citizens and their children are not getting stimulus payments because they're married to non-citizens who don't have Social Security numbers. And some tell Kane In Your Corner they feel like their country is treating them as "second-class citizens.”
Three separate class-action lawsuits were filed on Wednesday, contending the Trump administration’s policy is unconstitutional.
Vanessa Arita is a lifelong New Jersey native, but her husband, Kevin, is from Honduras. She says they didn't expect him to qualify for a stimulus payment, but were shocked to learn that because of him, neither did she or their son.
"To exclude my son and myself and millions of other American citizens who have every right to that stimulus package was a slap in the face," she says.
It was a similar experience for Lynette Spencer, whose husband Jorge, is from Mexico.
"I am an American citizen and so are my children," she says. "It is unfair. It feels discriminatory and it’s insulting."
The CARES Act says that to qualify for a stimulus payment, an individual must have submitted a tax return that includes a valid Social Security number. But if they filed a joint tax return, their spouse and children must also have valid Social Security numbers. If anyone on the tax return doesn't, then everyone is disqualified.
Randall Emery, president of the immigration reform group American Families United, calls that policy "fundamentally wrong."
He says the Trump administration was trying to crack down on undocumented immigrants, who can't get Social Security numbers and use individual taxpayer identification numbers, or ITINs.
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"The Senate passed a bill that had this exclusion in it, the House passed a bill that did not," Emery says. "And when all was said and done with the negotiations, this stayed in."
But some say in the effort to crack down on illegal immigration, Americans are the ones being abandoned.
"You have over 5 million American children in the midst of a pandemic, why would you deny them assistance?" says Sen. Bob Menendez, who is trying to secure funding for these "mixed-status" families.
Menendez says it's particularly egregious that people like Vanessa Arita and Lynette Spencer are only being penalized because they filed taxes jointly with their spouses, something the government instructs couples going through the immigration process to do.
"In ways to understand that it's not a sham marriage, a marriage that's not just for immigration purposes, one of the many ways in which you show that is cohabitating together, having property together, and certainly filing your tax returns together," Menendez says.