Stimulus Checks: Why Some 1.2 Million Married Americans Won't Get Payments

Yet another glaring loophole in the process for stimulus check disbursement has been discovered — spouses of immigrants. According to a report by ABC News, American citizens who are married to immigrants, in some cases, will not receive an economic impact payment. This gap is leaving families out during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) estimates that there are 2 million American citizens who will not receive a stimulus check because their spouses are not citizens. The Migration Policy Institute estimates 1.2 million. Under the CARES Act, economic impact payments go to any permanent resident of the U.S. with a valid Social Security number. However, if a person who meets that criteria is married to someone who is not, and they file their taxes jointly, neither will get a check. MALDEF is filing a class action lawsuit over this issue.

Many legal immigrants to the United States file their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security Number (SSN). The language of the CARES Act ensures that a married couple with an ITIN and an SSN between them will be counted as ineligible for a stimulus check. MALDEF hopes its lawsuit will draw attention to this issue, and it reportedly already has.

Congressionl Democratic leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have taken notice of MALDEF's efforts, along with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro. On Friday, Pelosi called this "a monumental injustice," while Schumer called it "a form of discrimination."

Still, neither leader had any advice on how Americans in this situation could go about getting their emergency payment. Instead, they said that they would look at fixing the legal language on their end, with Pelosi saying it should be "one of the easiest things we can do." It is not clear if Pelosi is referring to the CARES Act or future stimulus bills, which are currently underway.

In the meantime, ABC News spoke to two families in this situation, including Christina Segundo-Hernandez, whose husband is not an American citizen, though she and their four children are. That means that Segundo-Hernandez is missing out on her own $1,200 check and an additional $2,000 for her children.


Anastasia Campos said she is in the same boat — with four children and no checks. She said that she and her husband, Jose, filed their taxes jointly at the recommendation of immigration officials, making this even more frustrating.

"We have individuals who are waiting for their papers to go through. They have not ever entered illegally. They were included on the taxes because we are told this is something Immigration wants to see. They want to see documentation, continuity," Campos said. "I am at home with my four children and we have nothing. We have nothing. We are lost. And feeling like I’ve been slapped in the face by my government is wrong. I have always contributed, as has my husband."