U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is facing a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s decision to exclude some children from federal stimulus checks because one or both of their parents are immigrants.
The complaint stems from the government’s $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, which provides $1,200 for single taxpayers earning less than $75,000 and $2,400 for married couples earning less than $150,000. The emergency aid also provides $500 for each child who is under the age of 17. The payments are designed to help families weather the economic impact of the coronavirus, which has left about 1 in 6 U.S. workers without a job.
The dispute arises from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act’s exclusions including a provision that bars immigrants without Green Cards from receiving the stimulus checks. The IRS has also said that U.S. citizens who file taxes with immigrant spouses who lack a Social Security number are ineligible for the payments.
That’s already sparked at least one lawsuit against President Donald Trump last month on grounds that it violates the rights of U.S. citizens. The latest litigation, filed Tuesday, focuses on children who are American citizens and where one or both parents are undocumented immigrants. Denying these children a stimulus payment is “discriminatory” and unconstitutional, the suit claims.
The seven children cited as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who range between seven months and nine years of age, are identified only by their initials and are U.S. citizens. They are represented by attorneys from Georgetown University Law Center and Villanova University.
“By denying U.S. citizen children cash assistance now for discriminatory reasons — in the midst of a pandemic that has caused their families, like many others, serious hardships — the CARES Act has inflicted particularly severe injuries on an especially vulnerable group that numbers in the millions,” the lawsuit claims.
The decision to exclude from stimulus check eligibility U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants without Social Security numbers affects 1.2 million Americans, according to the Migration Policy Institute. There were 2.3 million foreign nationals on temporary visas in 2016, according to the non-partisan think tank.
Under the CARES Act, children whose immigrant parents are both undocumented are ineligible for the $500 payment. But there are exceptions to that rule, the suit notes, such as if either spouse is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces at any time during the tax year. In that case, only one of them is required to have a valid Social Security number, according to the IRS.
Children of couples in which one parent is a U.S. citizen — but who file their taxes separately from their immigrant spouse who lacks a Social Security number — also qualify for a stimulus check. But that tax-planning move may not make financial sense for many people, the lawsuit alleges. Filing separate tax returns “will increase the family’s tax burden in an amount that reduces, or may eliminate entirely, any benefit from securing economic impact payments for qualifying children,” the suit claims.
The complaint also alleges that the government’s policy violates the Fifth Amendment rights of U.S. children and treats them as “second-class citizens.” Denying them a payment “punishes citizen children for their parents’ immigration status and treats them worse than similarly situated citizen children whose parents are U.S. citizens or immigrants eligible to obtain Social Security numbers.”