Trump "stimulus" checks for COVID-19 crisis discriminate against mixed families
The federal government could face one of the biggest demands of its mandate for denying financial support to citizens married to an undocumented migrant.
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Christina Segundo is very annoyed with Donald Trump's Administration, and the 1.2 million people in her same situation will be too.
The 39-year-old Indiana-born mother of four who worked at a packing company until she quit her job for fear of getting COVID-19 will not receive the $1,200 stimulus check provided by the CARES Act for those who earn less than $75,000 a year. The reason, she's married to an undocumented Mexican immigrant.
She is one of six plaintiffs being represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), a civil rights organization that charges President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that the $2.2 trillion relief package to help low-income families cope with the coronavirus crisis denies stimulus checks to Americans married to undocumented migrants.
This affects the more than 1.2 million mixed marriages in the country and could become a huge class-action lawsuit that could blow up in the face of the federal government.
Under the CARES Act, anyone with an income of less than $75,000 a year is entitled to the benefit as long as they have a Social Security number - except if they are a member of the military. This excludes undocumented migrants who declare taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), although some legal migrants do so as well.
The biggest problem arises when tax reports are filed jointly - the stimulus check, in this case, amounts to $2,400 and $500 more per child under 17 - as a mixed marriage with one spouse having an ITIN means that neither is eligible for the benefit.
"My husband is undocumented, but he is trying to live the most legal life he can while he is here. We try to do what we can, but he leaves us in the lurch," Christina Segundo.
That's why MALDEF declared on Tuesday, when the class action was filed, that the CARES Act "discriminates against mixed-status couples because it treats them differently from other married couples, in violation of the Fifth Amendment guarantees of equal protection and due process."
They also argued that by denying the benefit, the federal government is humiliating "plaintiffs and children of mixed-status couples by treating them adversely compared to other families."
The situation is extreme for people like Segundo, who believes she should not have been so honest, and feels punished for being transparent about her mixed status instead of using a false Social Security number like others do.
The couple has been waiting for their status to be fixed for a long time and can no longer afford the costs of legalization, nor their rent.
"We pay our taxes faithfully like everyone else does," she told Dallas Morning News. "My husband is undocumented, but he's trying to live the most legal life he can while he's here. We try to do what we can, but he leaves us in the lurch."
The woman knew she had been left out of the stimulus package when Democrats in California and Arizona introduced a bill to repeal the CARES Act and include ITIN taxpayers.
There are more than 1.2 million mixed marriages in the United States in which one partner is undocumented.
Since then Christina has fought on the front lines. She has phoned members of Congress, sent emails to Donald Trump and even created a Facebook group to bring together families of mixed status who are going through the same experience.
In the end, she managed to join forces to make a class action lawsuit on the grounds of discrimination.
Now she is fighting for the matter to be resolved as soon as possible and for other victims of a law she describes as "humiliating" to people in her situation and their children to change at once. But time is against them, payments are piling up and the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic is hitting these families hard, who have suffered most of the layoffs and are extremely vulnerable.