Mixed-status families eligible for $600 stimulus checks and retroactive CARES Act checks

An estimated 43,000 additional Utahns will be included in the relief funding in this round of COVID-19 relief if president doesn’t derail it.

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) In this Dec. 18, 2020, file photo, Jialing and Josh Bird, pose outside their apartment in Provo. The couple in the last round of relief aid received $1,200 — half the amount that other couples received because of confusion or government mistakes over Jialing's legal residency status. The new relief package approved Monday night by Congress fills in some of the gaps that excluded mixed immigration status families in the first round.

Mixed-status families received an unexpected but welcome surprise Monday night when Congress passed a $900 billion economic relief bill that included families of mixed-immigration status.

The bill amends what mixed-status families and many immigration advocates called an unfair punishment that left out U.S. citizens and taxpaying immigrants with legal residency because of the immigration status of their spouses or parents.

But President Donald Trump on Tuesday night called the bipartisan package a “disgrace,” and signaled the prospect that he may not sign it into law after all.

“I’m still in shock,” said Jane Lopez, a member of a mixed-status family. “I’m actually really glad that our lawmakers heard us and realized what a terrible idea it was to just cut citizens off from support just because of who our family members are.”

Mixed-status families, where at least one family member is not a U.S. citizen, were left out of the CARES Act earlier this year. The act excluded anyone who filed their taxes with an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), which the IRS issues to individuals who aren’t eligible for a Social Security number. This included couples filing a joint return in which one individual had an ITIN and the other had a Social Security number and would have otherwise qualified to receive an individual check.

The bill Congress passed Monday states that although individuals with an ITIN still won’t be eligible for an individual check, the presence of an ITIN on a joint return will no longer automatically disqualify the individual’s spouses or dependents from receiving aid.

The bill also states that “non-resident aliens” are not eligible and that members of the armed forces will be eligible for a full $1,200 check on a joint return regardless of whether one spouse has an ITIN.

The bill’s change in eligibility requirements means an additional 5 million or so individuals will receive aid, including some 43,000 Utahns, according to estimates from the Migration Policy Institute. More than 9 million undocumented immigrants are still not eligible, and children who are U.S. citizens whose parents are undocumented and do not pay taxes will not receive aid.

The bill also retroactively makes the Social Security number holders in mixed-status families eligible for CARES Act checks.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., clarified in a news release Monday that individuals will be able to apply for the retroactive payments as a tax rebate when they file their 2020 taxes.

“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 said. “No American should have been blocked from receiving federal assistance during a global pandemic because of who they married.”

The Florida senator introduced legislation earlier this year to amend the CARES Act to include mixed-status families and, in conjunction with Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and others, to provide additional payments for families, including citizens whose spouses have an ITIN. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Romney’s office referred The Tribune to a general statement the senator released Tuesday.

“I’m pleased that Congressional leaders used our legislation as the basis for the final package that has now passed both Houses,” Romney said. “Thousands of Americans are in dire need of the lifeline this legislation provides, and I urge the President to sign it without delay.”

The new bill also provides funding favored by those pushing for better immigration law enforcement. It gives $1.375 billion to Customs and Border Protection for the construction of the Trump administration’s border wall and nearly $8 billion to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While the bill cuts ICE’s overall funding by about $106.5 million compared to 2020, it puts $2.8 billion towards detainment. The Miami Herald reported that the funding would allow ICE to detain 34,000 people daily (twice the number it currently detains).

Lopez, who in addition to being in a mixed-status family herself is also a Brigham Young University sociology professor who studies mixed-status families, said the juxtaposition is “a bitter pill to swallow.”

“Many mixed-status families living with and navigating the constant threat of deportation and detention every day and extra money to fund those programs is not great,” she said. “I feel like families like ours are forced to accept these kinds of bad deals at all if we want to be seen.”

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