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‘Mixed-status’ families seek class action lawsuit against Trump administration over not receiving stimulus checks

Citizens who jointly filed taxes with a spouse who doesn’t have a Social Security number are prevented from getting stimulus checks.

A woman walks in front of a closed store in Chicago on Friday.
Chicago immigration attorneys Lana Nassar and Vivian Khalaf have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the CARES Act exclusion preventing mixed-status families from receiving stimulus checks.
AP file

Hundreds of U.S. citizens in Illinois who file taxes with a spouse who lacks a Social Security number are seeking to join a class action lawsuit against the Trump administration for being excluded from receiving stimulus checks under the CARES Act.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act enabled the IRS to hand out $1,200 to Americans earning up to $75,000 a year, $2,400 to married couples who jointly file and make less than $150,000 year, and another $500 for every child under the age of 17.

But the payments can only go to taxpayers who have a Social Security number, leaving so-called “mixed-status” families behind. An exception was made for military families.

Chicago immigration attorneys Lana Nassar and Vivian Khalaf have filed a federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Illinois on behalf of an unnamed man who didn’t receive a stimulus check because he filed taxes with a spouse without a Social Security number.

Nassar and Khalaf seek class action status to include an estimated 1.2 million Americans who are married to immigrants who lack Social Security numbers and their citizen children.

About 6,000 citizens have signed up to become part of the case, including more than 1,500 in Illinois, Khalaf said during a virtual news conference Tuesday.

“There are many things in the law that are in the gray area. This is black and white. This is a constitutional violation of United States citizens,” Nassar said.

The news conference was organized by members of the Illinois congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, D-Ill., said the CARES Act excluded more than 3,700 Illinois families from receiving a stimulus check. “No one should be discriminated against for who they chose to marry [and] no child should be deprived of the financial aid they need during the pandemic. Doing so is cruel and inhumane,” he said.

“This is not just a Latinx issue,” said Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill. “There are U.S. citizens that are married to immigrants from countries all over the world. Right now, we are talking about an issue about basic fairness, plain and simple,” she said.

Communities in the Chicago area with high numbers of immigrants like Cicero, Little Village and Belmont Cragin have also recorded high numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.