- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2020

Top Democrats called Friday for coronavirus stimulus checks to go to illegal immigrants, but said at the very least their spouses or children who are in the country legally should be able to get checks.

The recently passed stimulus bill blocked payments from going to tax returns that included an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. That’s what illegal immigrants, who don’t have Social Security numbers, often use to file their taxes.

But Democrats said there are plenty of cases where a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant is married to an illegal immigrant and under the stimulus law as it’s written, they’re blocked from getting checks too, if they file jointly.

“It’s just cruel. It’s just cruel — particularly when you think of kids who need food,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

The tax situation is complicated.

Military families are exempt. And if a “mixed-status” married couple files separate returns, then the spouse who has a Social Security number can get a check, while the one paying by an ITIN will not.

But there are also some relatively rare cases where someone is not an illegal immigrant but still files a return using an ITIN. Those returns, too, are blocked, according to immigration advocates.

The Migration Policy Institute calculated that the prohibition is preventing stimulus checks from going to 10 million illegal immigrants, but also to 3.8 million children and 1.8 million spouses who are U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund has filed a lawsuit challenging the policy, but said litigation goes slowly. MALDEF says the basis for the lawsuit is that Americans have the right to marry whomever they want, and the law punishes them for their choices.

“It treats them differently than other married couples,” said Andrea Senteno, a lawyer at MALDEF.

Democrats see the coronavirus crisis as a chance to celebrate, and perhaps normalize, illegal immigrants in the U.S. economy.

Party leaders have argued that COVID-19 testing and treatment should not be denied on the basis of legal status, for health reasons. But they also have said illegal immigrants have shown they’re essential to the economy, whether it’s farm workers here without authorization who are picking crops, or thousands of “Dreamers” here under temporary relief from the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty who are working as nurses or other health care employees.

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