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Petition: U.S. gov’t must include mixed-status families in COVID-19 relief package

May 26th, 2020
topic:Immigration
by:Yair Oded
located in:USA
tags:Change.org, COVID-19 coronavirus, immigrant rights, petition, Trump Administration, undocumented immigrants, USA

Last month, the United States government issued American taxpayers payments of up to $1,200 per individual aimed at alleviating the financial hardships resulting from the COVID-19 crisis. Excluded from this relief package are U.S. citizens and lawful residents married to undocumented immigrants or those who are in the process of adjusting their immigration status.

A Chenge.org petition is now calling on the U.S. government and Republican-controlled Senate to immediately expand the scope of the program and extend financial support to millions of mixed-status families who have been stranded to fend for themselves. 

Government passes COVID-19 relief package 

As was the case in countries throughout the world, the rapid spread of coronavirus has led to an abrupt shut-down of the United States - businesses were shuttered, employees were laid off or furloughed, and millions of people had found themselves without a source of income in the middle of a deadly global pandemic. 

In order to tackle the swelling economic fallout of COVID-19, Democrats and Republicans joined forces and passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (commonly referred to as the CARES Act). While much of the relief package concentrated on bailing out corporations and giant industry actors, the CARES Act did authorise financial support of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for households earning below $198,000 annually. 

Undocumented immigrants and their spouses excluded

Alas, the U.S. government decided to exclude from the program millions of undocumented immigrants and immigrants who are in the process of adjusting their immigration status and therefore do not have a Social Security Number (SSN). It is important to stress that many of these people do pay taxes, but do so using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) in lieu of an SSN. 

As a result of this stipulation, households in which one of the spouses does not have an SSN were deemed ineligible to benefit from the Economic Impact Payments, regardless of the status of the other taxpayer, their financial circumstances, how many children they have, etc. 

Responding to complaints about the exclusion of mixed-status families from the CARES Act, a spokesperson for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stated that Americans who are married to individuals paying taxes using an ITIN will be able to qualify for a tax credit in retrospect should they file their 2020 taxes separately from their undocumented spouses. Such a step severely delays the financial relief and potentially excludes half of these people’s household. 

A spokesperson for Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) further stated that the removal of mixed-status families from the program was necessary in order to prevent “fraud and abuse,” and claimed that such filings were “relatively rare.”

But such filings are far from being rare, and it is estimated that roughly 2 million undocumented people are currently married to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. 

Democrats vow to fight for mixed-status families 

Democratic leaders from across the country have criticised the exclusion of mixed-status families from the program, and vowed to pressure the government to abandon this restriction. 

“It’s just cruel,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), “Particularly when you think of kids who need food, who need medicines, and not giving them the help they need.”

“Millions of American citizens … and their children are being denied the CARES Act relief payments because they’re part of the mixed status families,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “They pay taxes, contribute to our economy, and in many cases are fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.”

Unjust and impractical provisions 

As Pelosi stated, undocumented immigrants are currently battling on the front-lines of this pandemic. Out of the roughly 11,300,000 undocumented immigrants living in the United States, a great many perform works that are deemed ‘essential’, and are therefore risking their and their families’ lives in order to keep the country on its feet throughout this pandemic. Denying them support during this crisis isn’t only egregiously immoral, but highly counterproductive as far as combating the virus is concerned. Undocumented immigrants are deeply woven into the fabric of American society; they don’t exist on a separate plane from those who hold legal status. Thus, refusing them help risks exacerbating the crisis (both financially and health-wise) across the country. 

Petition seeks to raise public pressure

The change.org petition, launched by Adolfo Hernandez, seeks to add much needed public support to Democrats’ bid to include mixed-status families in the CARES Act. “I think it's unfair and discriminating that Mixed-Status Families are being left out from the Economic Impact Payments because either or one of the parent uses an ITIN number to report taxes every year, is undocumented, or is in the process of becoming a Resident of The United States,” Hernandez writes. “I feel if they pay taxes like the rest of us do, then why should they be left out from receiving the help that they need as well?”

Hernandez reminds people that “we are all in this together,” and calls on people to contact their governors and local representatives and demand action on this issue. 

A step in the right direction

Immigrants in the U.S., and particularly undocumented ones, are among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis, and yet are most frequently overlooked. Expanding the scope of the CARES Act to include mixed-status families does not solve the problem in its entirety - as there are still millions of undocumented people across the country who aren’t married to Americans and need urgent support - but it surely is a step in the right direction.

Please consider signing the petition and help its author reach their target of 25,000 signatures before passing it on to the relevant sources. 

Article written by:
yair oded profile
Yair Oded
Author, Project Editor, Contributing Editor
USA
While much of the relief package concentrated on bailing out corporations and giant industry actors, the CARES Act did authorise financial support of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for households earning below $198,000 annually.
Democratic leaders from across the country have criticised the exclusion of mixed-status families from the program, and vowed to pressure the government to abandon this restriction.
Immigrants in the U.S., and particularly undocumented ones, are among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis, and yet are most frequently overlooked.