CARES Act Excludes Legal Children of Undocumented Immigrants From Receiving Relief, Lawsuit Claims

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By Elle Meyers

May 7, 2020

A lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven U.S.-born children and their parents denied COVID-19 relief because their parents filed and paid taxes with an ITIN.

Immigrant advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court this week alleging that denying coronavirus relief financial aid to citizen children because their parents are undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional.

Professor Leslie Book of the Villanova Widger School of Law and Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection alongside CASA, a nonprofit immigrant rights organization based in Maryland filed the lawsuit on behalf of seven children and their parents. 

Book says excluding legal citizens in the U.S. from receiving federal coronavirus aid because they are the children of undocumented parents is “a slap in the face to millions of hardworking, taxpaying immigrants.”

RELATED: They Were Denied Coronavirus Relief Because They Married Immigrants. Now, They’re Suing.

The complaint alleges that the CARES Act, which was signed into law in late March this year, provides federal coronavirus relief funding solely to taxpayers who file their taxes using a Social Security Number. This leaves out U.S. citizens and immigrants with work authorizations who pay their taxes by using an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). 

In short this technicality means that the children of immigrants who are themselves legal citizens of the United States are excluded from financial support. 

Book notes that refusing to provide economic impact payments to support citizen children harms the children themselves and “is especially cruel and unjust when so many are struggling to pay for food, rent and medicine.” 

The lawsuit alleges that the CARES Act provision denies citizen children of undocumented taxpayers equal protection under laws guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. 

One of the plaintiffs in the case, who chose not to be identified, explained that she came to the U.S. in 2005 and has a son who is a legal citizen. When the pandemic hit the D.C area she was working in a restaurant and lost her job because of the shutdown. Other members of her family have contracted the virus or have also been laid off so there is no income coming in and the family has begun getting food from the local community center or the school system which has been providing meals to students.

“I have lost my job, and in my home three adults have the coronavirus; none of us are working,” she said in a statement. “My son is an American citizen, and we need him to receive the CARES Act benefit to provide food and a roof over his head until this difficult moment passes.”

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the provision in the CARES Act that makes it impossible for citizen children of undocumented parents to get the federally allocated money, is unconstitutional and seeks the full amount of financial support allowed under the relief package. 

“The purpose of the CARES Act is to help the most vulnerable members of our society during this difficult time,” said Nicholas Katz who serves as CASA’s Senior Manager of Legal Services in a statement. “Immigrants make up almost a fifth of front line workers during this pandemic. It is an absolute outrage that we are relying on immigrant families to care for our loved ones and provide our essential supplies and yet denying their children the support they are entitled to as U.S. citizens.”

Reports indicate that although the case does not have precedent there have been two other lawsuits filed in Maryland and Illinois against the U.S. government on behalf of families of mixed immigration status. 

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