Undocumented parents of American citizen children who are excluded from the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package filed a federal class-action lawsuit on Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Maryland by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center along with CASA, a nonprofit immigrant rights organization.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven children, ranging in age from seven months to 9 years old, and their parents.
What is the Federal Coronavirus Relief Package?
On March 27th, a federal-government Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law, with the aim of providing an economic lifeline to millions of people who pay their taxes using their Social Security number.
However, the relief package does not extend to those who use the individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) to pay taxes – the taxpayer system used by undocumented immigrants.
Under the scheme, every eligible individual receives a $1,200 check if the person has an income of less than $75,000, or $2,400 if a couple files taxes jointly. Also, individual taxpayers who have children qualify for $500 per child if the child/children are under 17-years-old.
Carmen, the mother of a child involved in the lawsuit, said:
“My daughter is a U.S. citizen… “Just as any other U.S. citizen child, my daughter deserves to have equal rights… especially during this pandemic.”
Before the pandemic, Carmen worked at a catering company and a pizzeria. She explained that she pays income tax every year using her ITIN.
“This is the first time I’m home without an income,” she said. “I’m using my voice to advocate on behalf of my daughter.”
Carmen came to the USA from Lima, Peru back in 2001. She is deeply concerned about the future for her family and pleaded with public officials to not abandon children like hers during the crisis.
“It’s a hard reality we are living,” Carmen said. “I hope their hearts soften and their minds open to see that our children are also the future of the country.”
Help Our Most Vulnerable?
Nicholas Katz, who is CASA’s senior manager of legal services, said that the way that the act has been implemented actually runs counter to its intended purpose “to help the most vulnerable members of our society during this difficult time.”
“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.”
Lawsuit Against the CARES Act
The lawsuit is being filed on the grounds of the discrimination of the CARES act. Mary McCord, who is lead attorney for the lawsuit said:
“The lawsuit is based on the equal protection violation of the CARES Act that discriminates and excludes U.S. children,” said McCord, a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center. “It’s one thing to discriminate against the undocumented immigrants, which our system does, but it’s a whole different thing to discriminate against U.S. citizen children.”
McCord estimates that there are millions of U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrant parents in the country. She stated that the CARES act is treated youths as “second-class citizens.”
McCord estimates that there are millions of U.S. citizen children of undocumented immigrant parents in the country.
McCord also explained that the act does not take into account the fact that U.S. citizen children already qualify for other public benefit programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
From both a legal and sensical point of view, McCord sees serious problems with the act. McCord said:
“Under the Constitution, U.S. citizens cannot be discriminated against based on alienage,” McCord said. “These children have no say in who they’re born to, and yet they’re being treated differently than other U.S. citizen children. And that’s why so many of the other public benefits programs still do cover U.S. citizen children, because otherwise it would be discriminatory.”
At the time of writing, at least two other lawsuits have been filed against the U.S. administration for denying CARES Act relief payments to taxpaying couple where one person doesn’t have a Social Security number.
We await to see the outcomes.