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Mixed-status immigrant families to receive stimulus checks under COVID relief package

Trump finally signs COVID relief bill
Trump finally signs COVID relief bill and funding measure to avert government shutdown 08:48

As part of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress last week and signed into law by President Trump Sunday, the U.S. government will allow mixed-status households with undocumented family members to receive stimulus checks that they were denied under the first round of legislation in the spring.

Under the bipartisan agreement, U.S. citizens and green card holders will be able to receive $600 in direct aid, even if they filed a joint tax return with an undocumented spouse, as well as additional $600 checks per dependent child, according to congressional aides and the text of the legislation.

The new compromise will also retroactively make mixed-status families with one Social Security number-holder eligible for the $1,200 per household and $500 per child checks allocated by the CARES Act, which was enacted in late March.

The $600 checks phase out for individuals with an adjusted gross income higher than $75,000 in 2019, heads of households who earned more than $112,500 and for couples who made $150,000 or more.

Approved by Congress with broad bipartisan support early last week, the measure was signed by Mr. Trump over the weekend after he spent days criticizing several of its provisions, including the relief for mixed-status families. Mr. Trump had implicitly threatened to veto the aid, which was attached to a massive spending bill to fund the government for a year. 

The House on Monday is set to vote on a bill that would increase the value of the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 — one of Mr. Trump's proposed amendments — but it is unclear whether the changes would be approved by the GOP-led Senate as many Republicans have opposed larger direct payments.

Like in the spring, undocumented immigrants or other non-citizens who do not have Social Security numbers and file individual tax returns will not be entitled to stimulus checks under the winter relief package. U.S. citizen children without a parent with a Social Security number will also remain ineligible for the aid.

The CARES Act, the historic economic stimulus package passed in the spring, excluded mixed-status couples from direct financial relief because it required both filers of a joint tax return to have Social Security numbers.

Undocumented immigrants and other non-citizens who are ineligible for Social Security numbers use government-issued Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) to pay taxes. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) beneficiaries have access to Social Security numbers.

The Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, estimates that there are 1.4 million spouses and 3.7 million children in mixed-status families who are U.S. citizens or have legal status.

The exclusion garnered widespread criticism and led to several lawsuits on behalf of U.S. citizen parents and children in mixed-status families. The provisions added to Monday's package to address the issue were supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, including Senators Thom Tillis and Marco Rubio.

"Fixing the provision that denied some eligible American citizens from receiving a federal stimulus check under the CARES Act was an oversight that needed correction," Rubio, a Republican from Florida, said in a statement to CBS News last week. "No American should have been blocked from receiving federal assistance during a global pandemic because of who they married."

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer echoed Rubio's sentiment.

"It was unfair and absurd that millions of taxpayers in need of assistance to feed their families, many in the immigrant community with U.S. citizen children and working on the frontlines, were previously denied access to these survival funds," Schumer said. "I am pleased we were able to extend this economic lifeline to additional families in need."

In June, Rubio and Tillis introduced a bill dubbed the American Citizen Coronavirus Relief Act that would've implemented the changes in the winter pandemic relief measure.

Some advocates applauded the relief for mixed-status families, but said the eligibility for the stimulus checks was not sufficiently inclusive.

"Given there are 5.5 million immigrants working at the front lines of this crisis as essential workers, Congress should provide protection to all tax filers in the U.S. regardless of immigration status," Kerri Talbot, the director of federal advocacy at the Immigration Hub, a lobbying group, said in a statement last week.

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