A number of Americans may be left out of receiving help from the government amidst the coronavirus pandemic because of who they married. On Friday, the Trump administration was sued over stimulus checks. The lawsuit claims that the federal government is denying aid to couples if one spouse is an "unauthorized" immigrant.
Filed in a federal court in Chicago, the lawsuit identifies its plaintiff only by the pseudonym John Doe. According to The Hill, John Doe claims the government is discriminating against him "based solely on whom he chose to marry."
John Doe himself is a citizen. However, his wife is not, and she uses a Tax Identification Number to pay her taxes rather than a Social Security number. TINs are issued by the IRS to undocumented immigrants so they can pay taxes. The IRS website notes however that if one member of a couple filing jointly uses a TIN and not a Social Security number, both people will not be eligible for payment; if the member of the couple with a Social Security number were to file their taxes separately, then they might qualify, per the agency.
The provision, Business Insider wrote, was "added by the Trump administration." Doe's lawsuit claims that both he and his spouse were denied their stimulus checks because his wife is an undocumented immigrant with a TIN, and that this constitutes discrimination.
The lawsuit specifically names President Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as defendants. The Republicans are not treating John Doe "as equal to his fellow United States citizens," the lawsuit alleges. Under the $2 trillion CARES Act relief package, married couples who filed their taxes jointly were eligible for a $1,200 check each — $2,400 total — from the government if their gross income was less than $150,000.
In response, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told MSNBC's Kasie Hunt, "Congress has to put its foot down. ... At the very least, every American citizen, the spouses and those children, deserve financial assistance."
A report from the Migration Policy Institute estimates that about 1.2 million unauthorized U.S. residents are married to U.S. citizens. Advocates argue that if undocumented immigrants are paying taxes, they should be entitled to taxpayer-funded assistance — especially in the middle of a once-in-a-generation public health crisis.
The Trump administration, however, has consistently targeted immigrants. The administration worked to slash migrant farm workers' wages despite them being deemed "essential," and last week, Trump announced his plans to temporarily suspend all immigration to the United States. Castro criticized it as an "an authoritarian-like move to take advantage of a crisis and advance [Trump's] anti-immigrant agenda."
While Trump eventually backed off his radical pledge to halt all immigration, he did announce that he'd block all new green cards. IT's part and parcel of other government efforts to deter immigrants during this presidency, including by denying asylum-seekers outright at the border and releasing them in cities across the Southwest with no way to find safe shelter.
This lawsuit may gain traction because the Trump administration denying aid to spouses of immigrants impacts U.S. citizens. But the way immigrant communities have overall been targeted throughout this presidency should not be ignored.